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Possible Street Extension Could Help, Hinder Tulsa Library Renovations

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The construction fence has been up for a couple months and inside is completely gutted. The construction fence has been up for a couple months and inside is completely gutted.
First built in 1965, Shaffer said the library's bones were just too good to tear down, so it’s getting a $50 dollar spruce up instead. First built in 1965, Shaffer said the library's bones were just too good to tear down, so it’s getting a $50 dollar spruce up instead.
“This project was designed, built and predicated on 5th Street going through,” said Executive Director, Gary Shaffer. “This project was designed, built and predicated on 5th Street going through,” said Executive Director, Gary Shaffer.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The $50 million makeover to Tulsa's downtown library is halfway finished.

The library is set to re-open in the summer of 2016, and while it's making progress, there is a roadblock that could hold the project up.

The construction fence has been up for a couple months and inside is completely gutted, but the project also depends on the extension of the 5th Street corridor.

When it all comes together, the 135,000 square foot building will have a lot to offer.

3/14/2014 Related Story: Downtown Tulsa Library Undergoes Massive Renovation

“This project was, in a sense, 50 years in the making with nothing done on the building in that time," said Executive Director, Gary Shaffer.

First built in 1965, Shaffer said the library's bones were just too good to tear down, so it's getting a $50 dollar spruce up instead.

“All the inside is brand new. It had to be demolished, selectively demolished, not taken down all together," Shaffer said when asked where the money was being used.

There will be study rooms replacing the balconies and what looks like a pile of bricks now, will be turned into an interactive garden center for children.

While the Central Library is being renovated, the Librarium is providing a temporary space for the library, and providing a glimpse of what else people can expect once construction is complete.

Digital check out kiosks, iPad lounges, computers for things like job searching, will all be installed.

Even as technology advances, one thing remains constant in the library, lots and lots of books.

"To think the internet makes a library irrelevant is just not the case," said Shaffer.

That's a sentiment library regular, Robert Brickner, shares as well.

"When I was growing up I jumped from libraries to libraries and I've never given it up. It is built inside very deeply there," said Brickner. "It is essential nowadays, without it you're lost."

What is also essential to the whole thing is the completion of the 5th Street extension, because drivers and pedestrians will need it in order to fully access to the building.

The latest cost estimates from the city have the project almost $5 million over budget.

“This project was designed, built and predicated on 5th Street going through,” Shaffer explained. “If it were not to go through, our project would need to stop. We would need to go into redesign and it would cost several million dollars to accommodate that."

There is still a year and a half before the library hopes to open, and it remains to be seen exactly what will happen with the 5th Street extension.

The money for the library's renovation is half private donations and half public money. The library saved $15 million to change out heating and ventilation systems and voters and city council passed another $10 million in Improve Our Tulsa funds.

The rest of the money came from private donations.

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