One of the features of the new Scenic Regional Library facility in Union is the expanded parking lot.
Compared to the old Union branch, the new building offers double the amount of parking spaces — more than 100. It turns out, all the extra spaces still weren’t enough to fit all the people at the library’s grand opening event Saturday.
Cars filled the parking lot at the new library and at neighboring businesses. Some cars even lined Independence Drive as hundreds descended on the facility to celebrate its official grand opening.
The building, which holds the Scenic Regional Library’s administrative offices and the Union branch, has been open since August, but Saturday was the big celebration.
The library was open for business inside and outside were games and activities for families. Kids could play in a bounce house or get a temporary tattoo. Food and drink were available from the Friends of the Library.
The main event of the day was a ceremony hosted by Scenic Regional Library Director Steve Campbell.
“I can’t describe how excited we are to be able to provide this new state-of-the-art facility to the residents of Union and outlying areas,” he said.
Campbell thanked the large crowd for turning out and showing support for the library. Thanking the crowd was a theme of the day. Multiple speakers thanked the crowd for supporting libraries by attending the event, but also by supporting the 2014 tax increase that made construction possible.
Campbell also thanked the contractor, Wright Construction, and architect, JEMA, for their work.
Campbell said he hopes the public uses the new facility. He said the seven other new branches saw an increase in attendance after they opened and he hoped Union follows suit.
Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker also spoke at the ceremony.
“What a great day for Franklin County, the city of Union and the great state of Missouri,” he said.
Brinker talked about how fitting it was that the library opened during the county’s bicentennial. He said this year has been about reflecting how far the county has come and the new library is a shining symbol of progress.
Missouri State Librarian Robin Westphal also addressed the crowd. She praised the new facility and talked about the many ways it can be used. Westphal said she was jealous of the kids who get to play with the Legos and the teens who get to lounge on the comfortable furniture. She said she’d like nothing better than to sit down and read the newspaper in the adult lounge.
Westphal encouraged everyone to get their library card and use the facility regularly.
The final speaker was Missouri Seretary of State Jay Ashcroft. His office oversees the state libraries. Campbell said he thinks Ashcroft is the first statewide official to visit the library’s headquarters.
Ashcroft also said he was impressed by the new facility.
“When you have a library like this, anybody whosoever walks through those doors — regardless of age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background — can learn what they need to learn to be the best they can be,” he said. “That only happens because of every one of you.”
Ashcroft said the library is a place that brings the community together. He called it the new town square for the city.
The ceremony closed with a nod to the library’s past. Campbell introduced his predecessors as library director — Sallie Hancox and Ken Rohrbach — who were in attendance.
Campbell also spoke about the original library director, the late Lucy Lomax. After calling her the mother of the library, Campbell said one of the three meeting rooms at the facility would be named in Lomax’s honor. A photo detailing her life will be hung near the room.
Campbell surprised Hancox and Rohrbach by announcing the other two meeting rooms would be named after them. He presented them both with photos that also will be hung in the rooms.
Campbell pointed out Hancox hosts a regular meeting of the library’s book club. The group met in the sole meeting room at the old branch, but from now on will meet in the Sallie Hancox Meeting Room.
The new branch, located at 251 Union Plaza Drive near Pasta House and off Independence Drive, is approximately 23,000 square feet — 17,200 square feet for the Union branch and 5,800 square feet for the administrative offices and bookmobile.
The old Union library was just 7,000 square feet.
The facility has three new meeting rooms — triple the space of the old library. Each room has a number of features like projection screens and outlets.
The children’s area features games and activities for kids. Campbell said the idea was to give young kids a free place to play indoors. The area has a giant touch-screen tablet, LEGO tables, magnet walls and other activities. The library also has sections for teens and adults.
Seating is spread throughout the library. Some areas are “pods” meant to provide privacy for working people. Others are meant to relax.
Each seat has a power hookup near it so people can charge their devices. Additionally, the facility has three outdoor patios with seating, drive-up book drop, three study rooms and other amenities.
Construction on the library started in the summer of 2018.