What If You Couldn’t Get into Your Library? A Price Hill veteran explains how the Library’s sweeping Facilities Plan could change his life
Mitchell Erhardt sits on the bottom steps of the Price Hill Branch Library on Warsaw Avenue, blocks from where he lives, and talks openly about his 12 years of service in the U.S. Army. A veteran of combat missions Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Erhardt left the battlefield behind in 1992 after a friend died in his arms. “I’d had enough,” said Erhardt. After his years of service, Erhardt settled in Price Hill and went to work building custom furniture. Then, three years ago, he found he faced a new battle. Complications from diabetes damaged his kneecap and forced him to use a wheelchair. As he learned to navigate in his chair, he realized he would not be able to visit the Price Hill Branch Library. The building, which opened in 1909, is one of nine libraries in Hamilton County built with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. But it is not yet accessible to people with disabilities. “I don’t know how to express it,” said Erhardt. “It’s aggravating and I’m a big library user.” For Erhardt and other residents of Hamilton County who live with physical disabilities, the inaccessibility of the Price Hill Branch Library and two other library locations—Madisonville and Walnut Hills—means they can’t easily get access to the books, DVDs, research help, free Wi-Fi, and valuable services other Hamilton County residents enjoy at their Library. The Library and the Board of Trustees want to change that. The Library is beginning the most significant building plan in its 160-year history. It took 18 months of work by Library staff and architects to come up with solutions to meet the needs of our cardholders. The decision to go forward with this plan was 6
LibraryLinks | Winter 2018
announced during a board meeting in October 2016. Since then, the Library has been working to put the plan into action. The Facilities Plan will cost an estimated $54 million to complete. “The bulk of that is branch maintenance work that hasn’t been done for a long period of time,” said Molly DeFosse, Chief Finance and Facilities Officer. “That includes things like carpeting and renovation. Every day, there’s a new thing that needs to be done.” The Library maintains 41 buildings and 950,000 square feet of space across every corner of Hamilton County. Having so many branches makes the Library easy and convenient to use. With borrowing at an all-time high, it’s clear our cardholders need the Library. In fact, last year we were the second busiest public library system in the country, behind only New York Public Library.
The work to make all of our branches accessible to those with disabilities is the top priority of the Facilities Plan. The Facilities Plan is comprehensive and sets aside money for all our branches in need of repairs. We will replace roofs, furniture, elevators, and HVAC units. We need to replace branches in four communities: Elmwood Place, Greenhills, Miami Township, and Mt. Healthy. We also have some additional work to do to make our Cheviot and Wyoming branch libraries fully accessible to those with physical disabilities.
Published on Nov 9, 2017