GALVESTON — The Rosenberg Library on Wednesday will reopen its first floor after nearly five years of planning, fundraising and renovations to repair the historic building’s bottom level, which was damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

“Our goal has not been to just reopen the floor, but in every way we could to improve it,” said John Augelli, the library’s executive director. “I think we’ve succeeded in doing that.”

The $4.5 million project at the library, 2310 Sealy Ave., was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, flood insurance and the library’s own fundraising efforts.

The new first floor includes a nautical-themed children’s department, the circulation department, renovated meeting rooms and several technology upgrades.

The children’s department, which greets patrons upon entering from the library’s first-floor entrance off Sealy Avenue, is awash in blues and whites, with aisles of white bookshelves. The department includes a new computer lab with state-of-the art technology, a puppet theater in the corner and two custom-built toy ships adorned with interactive learning activities for young children.

Karen Stanley, the library’s head of Children’s Services, said the new children’s department allows the library “to help Galveston’s children more.”

Storm surge from the hurricane flooded the first floor, causing millions of dollars of damage. Aside from the cosmetic damage and ruined equipment, furniture and books, the stormwaters also damaged the library’s key operations systems, such as electrical distribution. Those systems were on the bottom floor.

The library has taken several steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again. The key operating systems have been moved, and the first floor has been upgraded to better withstand another storm surge. Floodgates at the two first-floor entrance automatically engage without the need for electricity or human assistance. The doors and windows are made of hurricane-rated aquarium glass that can withstand the elements. The library has moved the outside book drop away from the building, eliminating another way water can enter the first floor.

The renovation also includes several technological improvements for patrons. The library will have automated checkout and return systems, a Redbox-style DVD kiosk and improved heating and air-conditioning systems.

The storm also ruined the library’s two most used meeting rooms — the Randall Room and the Wortham Auditorium. The newly renovated meeting spaces now include upgraded public address systems, acoustic plaster for better sound and individual climate control systems. The rooms are available for nonprofits at no cost. Reservations can be made online at the library’s website.

Before the storm, Augelli said, the Wortham Auditorium was used up to 350 times a year.

Special hours

The library will be closed Monday and Tuesday and will reopen at 9 a.m. Wednesday for the first floor’s grand reopening.

Contact reporter Wes Swift at 409-683-5236 or

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