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Library access ramping up at Harriman's Carnegie

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By The Staff

By CINDY SIMPSON

rccindysimpson@bellsouth.net

Access for the disabled is closer to a reality for people wanting to visit the Harriman Public Library.

Harriman city coordinator Bob Tidwell has begun advertising for bids for the project, which involves grant money the city received in 2005 for improvements to the library and for crosswalk installments in the downtown area.

Tidwell said the grant is more than $130,000, with a city matching portion of several thousand dollars more.

He said the holdup in going forward with the grant was changes to the federal guidelines. The money for the grant is federal money handled by the state.

But city officials are now ready to move forward.

“Making the library handicap accessible is really worthwhile,” Tidwell said.

Tidwell recently told city council members it took four years to get the state to give permission to proceed.

The need to have handicap accessibility at the library has been something patrons and library staff have talked about for some time.

They want to balance the accessiblity changes with preserving the historic integrity of the aging Carnegie Library, one of few facilities left still being used as originally intended.

A historic architect with the Tennessee Historic Commission has visited the library to suggest repairs to the building and gave his thoughts on what could be done to deal with accessibility.

The building has only two entries — both in the front of the building — that involve using stairs.

For patrons who struggle to get into the building, library staff tries to accommodate people by bringing books to them.

The Harriman Public Library Web site said that books and other library items can be brought to a patron’s home if they are unable to make it to the library.

The city has advertised for bids for the improvements.

The invitation says that improvements include altering the front entrance and an interior lift for handicap accessibility to different floors.

Because of the balancing of accessibility and historical integrity, bidders will be required to attend a pre-bid conference at the site on March 20 at 10 a.m. Bids will be accepted until April 1 at 2 p.m.