New library branch will be big, luxurious and best of all — it will have a drive-through

Ann Hammond, director of the Lexington Public Library, walked past the fireplace and cherry wood that give the new branch a Town & Country elegance.
Ann Hammond, director of the Lexington Public Library, walked past the fireplace and cherry wood that give the new branch a Town & Country elegance. Herald-Leader

The first thing you need to know about the new Lexington library branch is that a luxurious look is in the building's DNA.

The 33,000 square foot as-yet-unnamed library branch, at the corner of Palumbo Drive and Man o' War Boulevard, formerly housed a luxury car dealership that sold Jaguars and Land Rovers. It is expected to open next spring, shortly after the Eagle Creek branch closes.

At the new library on Blake James Drive, the ceilings soar. The huge swaths of cherry-colored wood paneling exude a kind of Town & Country elegance. A fireplace with a huge horizontal stone panel forms the centerpiece of what will be one of the main ground-floor corridors.

On the floor nearby the current entrance is a customed-tiled compass— almost as if the building is calling out to the giant Foucault pendulum at the Central Library on Main Street.

The new library branch will be the largest in the Fayette County system — larger than those at Tates Creek, Beaumont and Northside — and will offer the library's first drive-through service for returns and pickups of materials that are on hold.

Ann Hammond, director of the Lexington Public Library, said the library will keep an eye on how well the drive-through service does, with an eye to possibly adding the service to other locations.

The new library branch will also offer meeting rooms, computer rooms, stand-up computer stations, study rooms and "maker rooms" in which patrons can do anything from art to woodwork to sewing. Some space will be set aside in the "bump-out" spaces on either side of the building for readers to lounge with a book or magazine. The new library branch will offer 25-30 percent more books than the current Eagle Creek branch, which the library system has outgrown.

A gallery will showcase the artwork of children and local artists. A windowed room reserved for children's activities, where patrons can see inside but rambunctious noises will be muffled outside, "is going to be fabulous," Hammond said.

The children's library section will include separate areas for children and young adults. Hammond would eventually like to add space for a children's outdoor classroom.

The Eagle Creek branch broke ground in 1991 at what was then a much less hemmed-in area near Humana Hospital-Lexington, now Saint Joseph East. It cost $1.5 million and, with 15,000 square feet, was touted by then-vice mayor Pam Miller as an "extremely modern and state-of-the-art building."

The Eagle Creek branch replaced the Eastland branch of the library, which was in a storefront at Eastland shopping center.

The Eagle Creek building will be auctioned Nov. 20, although the library is expected to remain there until the new branch is ready in spring, 2016.

The library paid nearly $4 million for the property at Palumbo and Man o' War and is spending about $3.6 million to turn it from a luxury sales pavilion into a stunning public library.

Following its sale at auction, the Eagle Creek library can remain open until March 1, Hammond said. The library will then have to transfer books and other materials into the new space, but that will be a quick process, Hammond said.

"It won't take us long at all," Hammond said. "We've got staff who are experienced at this."

Some library patrons always feel a twinge of nostalgia when they lose their favorite branch, said Doug Tattershall, library spokesman. He remembers "a lot of nostalgia when Lansdowne closed" and the Tates Creek branch opened in 2001.

The Lansdowne branch had only 7,500 square feet and no room for computers.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader