Hawaii State Public Library hasn’t had any major upgrades in 26 years

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It’s a cultural institution in downtown Honolulu. 

On the corner of Punchbowl and South King Street sits the Hawaii State Public Library. 

Site selected in 1911 and built in 1913, the building is 105 years old. It has been decades since the building has had any major upgrades. 

The outside of the flagship library is framed by statuesque columns… but parts of the inside aren’t so impressive.      

“I’m going to retire before it’s ever going to be fixed!” said librarian Colette Young.  

The library has gone through 3 stages of construction. The latest renovations to the building were done in 1992. 

Certain areas has paint chipping of the walls. A particular spot on the second floor has been leaking for decades, dripping water onto books. 

“Everybody comes by and they look at it and go – gee, this looks terrible. It (looks like) it’s got a disease, and the wall is crumbling. If you touch it, it crumbles,” explained Young. 

Librarians resorted to makeshift measures, like sticking trash cans, trash bags and newspapers to catch the drips.  

“In some places we’ve had to put plastic down until we can fix it. We have had some projects. We had some money to do the projects. The outside is painted, there’s some roofing work, but we still need to do more,” said state librarian Stacey Aldrich. 

Aldrich says the state public library system is requesting 3 million in state funds for major repair work, to include electrical upgrades, fixing the outdated plumbing, and switching to energy efficient lighting. 

“It’s work that will help to continue to create the kinds of power we need. People are charging all kinds of devices now, using their tablets and their laptops. It’s upgrading so we can better serve the public. But it’s also taking care of the inside so this building can continue on for many many more years,” said Aldrich. 

Overall, the state’s library system is asking for $42,607,910 for their year 2020 total operating budget. The 2019 approved budget is at $41,529,120. 

Aldrich says the budget request now goes to Governor David Ige’s office for approval. 

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