By Mike Scheck
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 13, 2009 - The public library here is receiving a facelift that highlights the building's 72-year heritage while hiding modern amenities. The $453,000 project, funded through the Commander's Emergency Relief Fund, calls for complete renovation of the library's electrical system, plumbing and heating plant, as well as installation of an air conditioning system and renovation of interior spaces.
"For centuries, Iraq's libraries and universities were renowned for their early collection of reference materials, writers, artists, scientists and poets," said Rizgar Jan, project engineer for the library renovation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District. "Even today, Iraqi writers, artists, scientists and poets are still among the academic leaders in both the Arab world and throughout the Middle East. In the past decade, because of the security concerns, the Iraqi educational community and libraries have suffered due to lack of funding."
Jan said the Kirkuk library suffers from both age and neglect, and also was damaged during a terrorist attack. The Corps of Engineers, the local government and the community have joined together to return the building to its former stature as a pillar of the community, he added.
"We envision the new library as an oasis of knowledge," Jan said, "where all the various ethnic groups that make up the Kirkuk region can visit and reinvigorate their love for reading."
Renovations include removing the utility poles in front of the main structure and burying the wires to add a more esthetic appeal to the building. All of the old hanging florescent lights throughout the library are being removed, and modern flush lighting fixtures are being installed in the ceilings. Walls will be repaired, countless layers of paint will be removed from the windows and doors, and the interior will be repainted with earth-tone colors to match the outdoor color scheme.
In addition, the exterior stone walls will be acid-washed and repainted. Plans also call for aesthetic steel and solid-wood security doors for the entrance and exit points.
The library also will have a high-speed wireless Internet network to provide connectivity to the reading room, administrative offices, the research library and the patio. The grounds will be professionally landscaped and a gravity-fed system will irrigate plants on the patio. A motion-sensor security system also is included in the design plans.
To sustain the library system in Kirkuk, the provincial reconstruction team is working to organize a training program for the librarians in cooperation with the U.S. Library of Congress and the American Library Association.
The Baghdad-based Ayon Al-Saba Co. is the general contractor for the renovation project, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring.
The Corps of Engineers has completed thousands of reconstruction projects in Iraq in partnership with the U.S. and Iraqi governments. Since 2004, more than 5,250 projects valued at more than $9.2 billion have been completed; 350 projects are ongoing.
(Mike Scheck works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District.)