Harris County Precinct 4 officials announced Sept. 17 the Baldwin Boettcher Library is scheduled to reopen next year as a joint-use facility with Mercer Botanic Gardens.

The library—which is located within a flood plain—took in 5 feet of water during Harvey, which damaged $916,253 worth of technology, books, furniture and supplies, said Edward Melton, Harris County Pubic Library director.

The county is reopening the library in its original location next to Mercer Botanic Gardens at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble. However, when it reopens, it will function as a shared space with the gardens.

The library will serve as the entranceway to the park, but other changes could also be made, such as moving the gardens’ welcome center or gift shop to within the library, Melton said.

"We're actually in the design phase with the architects now to figure out how we want to design this space in order to accommodate both park function and library function," he said.

This change will give both the gardens and the library additional space to host different classes and events, Melton said.

"We'll be able to use other buildings in the park to facilitate classes or instruction or having program space,” he said. “This partnership is going to expand available space for the library to use."

Aside from figuring out how the two facilities will function together, architects also need to incorporate flood mitigation strategies into the library’s design, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency must approve before construction can begin, Melton said.

He said the county does not anticipate FEMA will require significant infrastructure, such as an exterior wall to keep out flood waters, but changes will be made to the inside of the building. These changes could include raising desks so computers are not destroyed in the event of a flood, or making all shelving units mobile so they can be easily moved prior to a flood.

“Even the finishes within the building, it will be finished so that if it does flood, we can come in and power wash it, and do the minimum amount of restoration in order to bring the library back,” Melton said.

The county plans to send the project out to bid next year with the goal of reopening the library by the end of 2019. Melton said he does not have a price estimate for the rebuilding, but funding from FEMA, insurance and grants will cover the construction costs.