A patch of freshly mowed grass and a pile of dirt may not look like much, but it was cause for a celebration Saturday morning.
Dozens of people filled the patch near Pasta House to celebrate the official groundbreaking for a new library.
Scenic Regional Library Director Steven Campbell said the crowd of about 50 people was one of the largest for a groundbreaking event.
Campbell said he was thrilled by the support and even more excited to see construction get started.
“It’s really going to be a game changer for the community,” he said.
In addition to Campbell’s welcoming remarks, Saturday’s event featured three guest speakers.
Stephanie Norton, Scenic Library Foundation secretary, spoke about the historical need for libraries and what they can do for communities.
State Rep. Paul Curtman and 2nd District County Commissioner Dave Hinson also spoke about the importance of libraries. Both said they were excited about the new facility.
Construction on the Union branch of the Scenic Regional Library is expected to start next month, Campbell said. If all goes well, the library is expected to open in spring 2019 — April is the target month.
“I’m hoping April,” he said. “They said it’s supposed to take about 10 months.”
The building will be located between Anytime Fitness and The Pasta House off Independence Drive. A service road will be extended to the new library.
The location was chosen after exploring several sites along the Highway 47 corridor, downtown, the library’s current location and sites in the area of Prairie Dell/East Central College, east of its current location.
A demographic study helped officials glean the site chosen. The study included studying the number of people within a five-minute driving radius and the anticipated population growth through 2021.
The new Union branch will be massive compared to its current facilities. The library purchased nearly 3 acres for the building and plans to use the space.
At the site, the building will include the library, bookmobile and administration offices, which now are housed in a separate building at the Union branch site.
Plans call for the building to be 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 current size of the library is 7,000 square feet.
Campbell said basically doubling the size of the library is a reflection of Union’s growth. When the current building opened in 1991, Union’s population was about 5,000. Today that total is over 11,000.
“It’s the fastest growing community in Franklin County,” he said. “The new library will help us keep pace with that growth. The new building will not only be bigger, but also better.”
The new library will have 106 parking spaces, more than double at the current building. Meeting room space will triple, Campbell said.
“We can have more programming, community groups will be able to use it more,” he said. “Right now we get double-booked some times and we can’t have groups meet. With three separate meeting rooms, we can have basically unlimited programs and unlimited meetings.”
The building also will feature new furniture and more amenities for visitors.
“There’s going to places to charges your phones and tablets at every single chair and table in the building,” he said.
Plans call for more outdoor space, a children’s area and even a place for teens. More space also means more books.
“We have so many children’s books in storage that we can’t even fit on the shelves,” Campbell said.
The goal of the building is to be more than a library.
“We want to be a community center,” Campbell said. “We’d really like to see the library become that, more than it is now.”
Total costs are expected to be between $6 million to $6.5 million.