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Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press The Johnson City Public Library has been able to grow membership with new programs on genealogy research and computer training, adding to digital media collections and overall building improvements. Renovations, new digital offerings, programs broaden library’s audience By JENNIFER SPROUSE Press Staff Writer The Johnson City Public Library has become so much more than a place to check out books for a class assignment or research paper. In fact, improvements in digital media, reference collections and the overall look of the library have improved, bringing with them valuable everyday services benefitting the public. Over the last year or so, the library was in the process of a renovation project that brought in new carpet and a refinishing project for its wood flooring, but Bob Swanay, director of the library, said the major improvements happened on the second floor. “We created the additional study rooms, we created the computer center, we created the media center; and it’s a fairly dynamic new layout. The new computer center is more than just rearranging the computers. It’s positioned us to be able to offer training opportunities on just a wide variety of subjects,” Swanay said. “Most recently, we have had classes on how to use social media, genealogy, how to do ancestry research and a lot of time we’ll do classes like that in conjunction with a new library resource.” In reference to genealogy research, the library has subscribed to, and visitors of the library can use the service for free to look into their own family histories. Swanay said he and his staff offer a variety of training classes and individual help, which include resume writing, interviewing help, how to use an online resource, how to download an e-book and how to submit a job application online. “Librarians have shifted more into a role of an instructor. It’s not so much that people come here with a question and we answer it,” he said. “What we have to do is help people figure out how to do these things.” One new part of the library Swanay is proud of is the new media center. “I love it. It is comfortable to browse,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for us to grow and have more material.” The center has an array of DVDs, CDs, audio books, MP3 discs and a database that patrons can look up and check out e-books on a Kindle, Nook or iPad. “The range of options is just dizzying,” Swanay said. “I think the most popular element of that would be the DVD collection and the DVD collection is something that we have really that’s been patron driven.” He said the overall collection, including documentaries, National Geographic films, The History Channel episodes, biographies mixed in with non-fiction movies and various television series, could possibly put the library’s selection ahead of any retail store, Netflix or Redbox. But library purists can rest assured the books are still a hot item. “Our books are checking out quite well. Overall, last year for example, just in total checkout, it was still a record-breaking year and that’s including having been closed for two week at two separate occasions for the renovations,” Swanay said. The library offers many kidfriendly programs, including the popular summer reading programs. “There has to be a place in the community that you can take your kids and come together, not just get the books, but a place to come and be with other people and come to the programs,” Swanay said. And for the older students, either in high school or at the collegiate level, the library has ditched the study carrels and switched to a more open layout for study days and nights. “Young people tend to study in groups of two, threes. They prefer to sit at a table with a laptop with someone else maybe,” he said. “The vast preference for student studying is to have a table or to have study rooms.” Three study rooms were also added toward the back of the library on the second floor for group studying or discussions. Swanay said even during the recession a few years ago, the library kept, and even added, its patrons, in part because of their free services and library improvements. “I think what’s happened is a lot of the people that we’ve gained, even if they’re doing better now, we’ve kept them. We’ve broadened our audience and seemed to have held it,” he said. “I hope that we can still continue to grow and we still have a lot of people that are new to the area that are discovering the library. “We’re trying to keep it relevant and keep it moving along.” Wood floors are refinished, new carpet installed and major renovations have been done on the second floor. Downtown flood mitigation plan is much like a puzzle: one piece at a time By GARY B. GRAY Press Staff Writer So where is Johnson City when it comes to curing, or at least significantly curtailing, flood damage downtown when the “big ones” come, such as in 2003 and 2012, as well as the notorious “frog stranglers” — the short duration, high-intensity summer drenchings? Perhaps the easiest way for a layperson to wrap his or her head around the city’s roughly $30 million long-range flood mitigation plan is to imagine a large puzzle of the city, completely finished and lying face up on a flat table. Now, remove the pieces that are known trouble spots. Basically, this is how the city began to identify what needed to be done and where shortly after the 2003 flood. The pieces will be replaced, but they will not look the same. They each will be intentionally altered. Buildings will be missing, replaced by opened creek culverts and retention and detention basins. Some creeks will be widened and redirected, and areas nearby will be lowered to hold and release water. Some downtown businesses have and will find new homes. When will the puzzle be completed? That is the $30 million question. The 2003 flood caused heavy downtown flooding and prompted the formation a Storm Water Advisory Task Force and later the Downtown Storm Water Task Force. The result was the targeting of each major drainage basin downtown, and in 2007 the establishment of a storm water fee to help pay for the opening up and rerouting of King and Brush creeks and the creation of public, pedestrian-friendly greenspace to compliment the work. So far, a combination of $6 million in issued debt and various in-house efforts, This site will become Founder’s Park, a large greenspace area between Wilson Avenue, Main and Commerce streets and the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks. such as the McClure Street project, have shown the city has left the starting blocks. The first of eight planned phases of downtown flood mitigation gained traction in October when a $2.8 million bid by Johnson City’s Thomas Construction Co. to build the 5-acre Founder’s Park stormwater/park project was approved. Officials admit the opening of Brush Creek at Founder’s Park will result in minimal overall help for downtown flooding. But again, it is only one piece of the puzzle. “My first conversation with you (City Commission) about flooding was August 2008,” Don Mauldin, Knoxville’s Lamar Dunn & Associates’ executive vice president and lead consultant/engineer for the city’s long-range flood mitigation plan told commissioners last month. “Understanding we had $6 million out of the $30 million overall plan, we elected to tackle — inside budget constraints — the flooding we get often when it rains hard in the spring and summer.” Within the $6 million spending constraints, the city also is nearing a second phase. The site on which this phase would be constructed includes a swath of land where U-Haul now sits, where Cutshall’s Automotive has been demolished, a site being vacated by WW Cab Co., and an inhouse reshaping of King Creek, which sits adjacent to U-Haul. There are no specific design plans or cost estimates for this phase. A third project that picked up speed the past few months is the King Creek surface retention pond project. Owners of six properties bound by West Market, Boone, King and Montgomery streets negotiated and settled with the city for a total of about $1 million, and these buildings have been demolished. The properties were needed to upgrade stormwater improvements generated by flooding on King Creek. The plan includes providing retention areas that could hold runoff and let it flow into a lower portion of the creek. These first three phases are expected to bring relief, but the city may not begin work on King Creek pond right away. And U-Haul, the final piece of the puzzle in that phase, has not yet been fitted into place. “There are eight pieces which make up the $30 million plan, and several of these exceed $6 million,” said City Manager Pete Peterson. “What we tried to do was address the areas that flood most frequently. “Everybody needs to remember there are eight components, and no single piece will produce the ultimate results you want to get to. But incrementally, we’re working our way toward the end result.” Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press Work to expand Brush Creek is one piece of an eightpart plan to end flooding issues downtown. Page Design/Mike Murphy

Johnson City Press - Progress Edition 2013

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