LIHUE — TaiTai Gillies has always loved to read.
While she was growing up in Waikiki, Gillies said she read most of the books in the children’s section of the Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library.
“I’ve just continued to love the library,” Gillies said. “I don’t know what it is. I like to learn, I’m a word person and I like this permanent, peaceful feeling you get here.”
It’s no secret that Gillies visited the Lihue Public Library anywhere from two to three times a week until it was partially closed about six months ago for an extensive renovation.
During that time, the Puhi resident said she visited the Koloa Public Library or stopped by the library at Kauai Community College to keep up her longtime hobby.
That was until Thursday, when the Lihue library doors opened and unveiled the renovations completed over the last year and a half.
“I’m so happy that the library is open again,” Gillies said after walking through the front entrance and complementing the new carpeting and air conditioning system. “I’ve really missed this place and the people here.”
Edwin Santa Maria, an architect with the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said the project dates back to 2004, when Hawaii State Public Library System officials were seeking to update the library and comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements by shifting toilet fixtures and creating designated parking stalls.
But that, Santa Maria said, was only the beginning of the fixes needed for the 44-year-old library designed by architect Stephen Oyakawa, an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, to symbolize an open book.
The $1.9 million project grew to include upgrading the building’s electrical system, replacing most of the windows, installing new light fixtures and overhauling its aging air conditioning and dehumidifier system to combat mold and mildew.
“The reason why it took so long was because we had to shuffle things around during the construction, so we had to stop, rethink, organize and reassess if we’re on the right path,” Santa Maria said, “and all of that said, ‘Yes, go for it.’”
Construction kicked off in June 2012, and in April, most of the Lihue library was closed for ADA-related repairs except for a conference room, which served as the interim library during that stage of construction.
The Lihue library is one busy place.
According to annual Lihue Public Library figures, 99,800 library items were used in house, 37,400 questions were answered, 12,000 requests were placed, 10,900 phone calls from patrons were received and 16,100 Internet sessions were logged in between Nov. 2011 and Nov. 2012.
Kauai County Communications Director Beth Tokioka said the library is one of the island’s first projects to incorporate the county’s newly implemented Complete Streets policy and the state’s Safe Routes to School law.
“It’s such an important day for our island to have this facility again,” Tokioka said. “We’re so happy that this is one of our first projects that helps us make Complete Streets happen and helps make more of Kauai accessible to everybody on the island.”