The latest Roanoke City library branch to reopen is Williamson Road, which recently cut the ribbon on a renovated and expanded facility that features more natural light and an expanded children’s area.
The project took about a year to complete said library system director Sheila Umberger. “They’re going to see a building that’s almost twice as large [about 6000 square feet now].” There’s a teen center, a quiet reading room and an outdoor patio space.
All new technology includes upgraded computers. The children’s room now includes “state of the art” equipment for preschoolers, said Umberger at the ribbon cutting, a space she called “very scientifically oriented. A place where children can learn to read.” It’s also offers bi-lingual technology in both English and Spanish.
One Hundred Thousand dollars was spent on new books, with about 32,000 items now on campus, including large print, audio books and DVD’s. A new community room can also be used for events outside of normal library hours.
Many of the changes, like the large print book selection, came after receiving input from local residents about what they wanted the remodeled library to look like and feature. “We have the largest community room at any of our branches [now],” Umberger noted – 100 people, by code, can now fit in that space.
Umberger said the Williamson Road branch in particular “was very well loved by the community and now we have a facility that matches that somewhat. Citizens really value this library.”
Residents asked that the library maintain a warm, cozy feeling after the remodeling and that has been honored she added, noting that more comfortable seating was in fact added. The remodel/expansion had a four million dollar price tag.
Now it’s on to the relocation of the Melrose Library branch, which is moving to larger quarters at the Goodwill Industries of the Valleys jobs campus facility on Melrose Avenue. That project is out to bid at this point, with construction proposed to start by February. “We don’t want to slow down here,” said Umberger.
After Melrose, “Phase 2” plans include more renovations at the main branch in downtown Roanoke, a new “ebranch” in South Roanoke and then changes for the Gainsboro branch – which only opened in 2009. Future plans also include more library services in the Countryside neighborhood. There has been “a whole lot of community input [for library projects] and that’s what we like,” said Umberger.