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Main Library 'breaks wall' on new renovations

Nate Coulter describes his hopes and dreams for the new Main Library renovations.
Josie Lenora
Little Rock Public Radio
Central Arkansas Library System Director Nate Coulter describes his hopes and dreams for the new Main Library renovations in a news conference Tuesday.

The Central Arkansas Library System is moving forward on a large-scale renovation project.

The Main Library in downtown Little Rock will be undergoing a ground-up renovation in the coming year. On Tuesday, several library board members and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. broke a wall in the old library building.

CALS Director Nate Coulter says Little Rock “deserves” a good downtown library.

“We're joining what I think is a critical mass of cultural amenities in the city,” he said.

Coulter says the library gets over 400 patrons a day and believes the new renovations could double that.

“The more connection people have to a community, the longer they live, the healthier they are,” Coulter said, citing statements by the U.S. Surgeon General about isolation. Coulter says the new library could combat an “epidemic of loneliness.”

This comes after a report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette which said the renovation project would have slight delays. The report also said the final price tag for the library would be about $1 million over the initial $25 million budget.

Coulter said construction should take 12 to 14 months, which is “longer than [he] would like.”

The renovations will be funded by a millage increase central Arkansas voters approved in 2022. It allocated $500,000 to the library.

Artist renderings of the impending Main Library renovations, displayed at the "Wall Breaking" event Tuesday.
Josie Lenora
Little Rock Public Radio
Artist renderings of the upcoming Main Library renovations, displayed at a "wall breaking" event Tuesday.

Architect Reese Rowland described the new arrangement and amenities on each level of the library. He said the first floor would be a “living room for Little Rock.” It will have a courtyard along with a children and teen section, as well as a Boulevard Bread restaurant.

“So, imagine as a parent,” Rowland said. “Being able to grab a coffee and read a book and your kids be secure behind really colorful glass walls.

The renovations will also add glass to the front of the building where books will be located on each floor. A computer lab will be added, and the fifth floor will become a designated meeting space. The building will also have a place for patrons to gather on the rooftop.

At the end of the event, members of the library board and Little Rock's mayor took turns swinging large metal hammers into an old wall at the library.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.