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RENOVATION RETURNS LIBRARY TO FOREFRONT

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When Salt Lake County's Whitmore Library opened 20 years ago, a nationally distributed Associated Press article referred to it as "the library of tomorrow."

The $1.4 million facility offered phonograph records and typewriters and boasted a separate children's section, art gallery, drive-in service and a space-age auditorium with slide projectors and quadraphonic sound, not to mention books.But after all the tomorrows began to turn Whitmore into the library of yesterday, the county responded with a $1 million renovation that officials say has once again put it at the forefront of library science.

"We're very proud of it, and we think the public will be pleased with the new features as well as its new look," said Whitmore manager Jo Davies. "The comments we've received so far have been overwhelmingly positive."

Located at 2197 E. 7000 South, Whitmore is the county's main library and also houses the library system's administrative offices and materials distribution center.

County commissioners and library officials decided to undertake the major remodeling project in 1992 after learning that Whitmore would have to be practically gutted to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Facilities manager Lynn Everill explained that the law required wider aisles, which meant moving most of the existing heating and air conditioning vents and patching dozens of holes in the floor.

Since the aging heating system needed to be replaced and the floors recarpeted - requiring the removal of all the books - county officials said it made sense to bite the bullet and completely renovate the library.

To clear the way for construction workers, Whitmore employees removed more than 200,000 books and placed them in storage bins in the parking lot during the six weeks the library was closed last summer and hauled them back inside when the new shelves were finished.

Except for those six weeks, the library remained open throughout the remodeling work, which was completed this week. A grand reopening celebration and open house is scheduled for noon Wednesday, May 18.

Davies says visitors will discover a brighter and more functional library with a variety of new services and information resources, numerous electronic data bases and Utah's first library consumer health information center.

"Roughly 20 percent of all reference questions involve health and medicine," Davies said. "The health information center gives consumers a wide range of resources to answer those questions."

The center has up-to-date medical reference books, a CD rom data base, more than 130 magazines and newsletters, video and audio tapes, pamphlets, pharmacopeia and electronic access to hundreds of professional level medical journals and articles from throughout the world.

According to Davies, the center offers consumers comprehensive information on all types of health issues, including fitness, diet, alternative health care, environmental health and medical directories.

Noting that some of the library patrons who use the center's resources may have personal or family medical problems, Davies said Whitmore's staff has received special training in handling difficult and sensitive questions. The librarians will not give medical advice but can direct patrons to sources of information, she said.

The renovated library has a formal study center, providing a quiet setting away from the high-traffic core of the facility. Other changes include replacement of the huge central lighting fixture with a diffuse lighting system, lower shelves that admit more daylight through once obscured windows, an expansive children's section and computer catalogs at each aisle.

Davies said the renovation has left Whitmore room to grow and given it a foundation to link into the ever-widening information highway. For example, in addition to the daily newspapers from throughout the country and microfilm copies of old local issues, Whitmore now offers its patrons electronic access to Deseret News editions from 1988 to the present.