Multiple Renovations in County Library System Looming

A rendering of the new South County library on Merriman Rd.

by Melvin E. Matthews

With a likely opening in early December 2011, the new 54,000 square-foot South Roanoke County Library on Merriman Road (across from Penn Forest Elementary) will replace the current headquarters library on Route 419. The new facility will include The Commons—a community center featuring, among other things, two meeting rooms, an auditorium and a coffee shop. There are also two floors of library services, a Young Adults (YA) room, reference services and over 83 computers for public use.

The project was scaled down somewhat initially due to cost concerns, then came in under budget (approx. 12 million) when a weak construction market brought the price down during the bidding process.

The new South County Library is one of four major renovation projects currently in development in the Roanoke County Library system.  The effort, explains County Library Director Diana L. Rosapepe, dates back to 2006 when the county began planning the South County project.  “Once that one began and people [saw] what amenities would be in that library, it made it rather obvious that the rest of the libraries were inadequate and needed to be brought up to the same level. The county does try to support citizens across the valley with equal resources.”

Technological concerns—specifically the introduction of computers and the lack of an adequate support system for them—were the deciding catalyst for embarking upon the renovations.  “The computers are necessary for the citizens and for our operations,” says Rosapepe, “so gradually it [became] really obvious that the buildings either had to be renovated or replaced.”

Due to a lack of space, the South County Headquarters Library was in the worst condition so it was the first to be addressed.  Once that was funded, a countywide citizens’ committee helped decide which facility was next in most need of attention. Rosapepe explains, “that’s kind of how we’ve been doing it.”

Next on the list for renovation is the Glenvar Branch Library.  Built in 1978, the Glenvar facility will be the object of a fully funded $5,800,491 program authorized by the Board of Supervisors in June 2010.  The current building is slated to be torn down next month and in its place a 15,000 square-foot structure scheduled for completion—weather allowing—in December 2012.  In the interim, a small temporary facility at Rte. 460/West Main Street in Salem will accommodate Glenvar patrons.

The Vinton Library, built in 1969, is the oldest facility in the county library system.  It will relocate to a site directly across the street from the municipal building in downtown Vinton (a former wholesale florist) that was acquired by the combined efforts of the town of Vinton and the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.  Just when work on this new location will commence has yet to be determined by the town and the Board of Supervisors, although it will be within a ten-year window.

The goal of this project, Rosapepe says, “is to help revitalize downtown Vinton, bring more business and traffic to downtown – and get a new library in the system.”  The nearby Mount Pleasant Library will also go up on a site the Board of Supervisors bought, and is now housed in a temporary home on Jae Valley Road.  Just when that project will get underway depends on funding availability.

Rosapepe believes that once these projects are completed, “we’re going to become even busier than we’ve been, and we have never been busier in our whole history. We think this will bring more citizens in who will need more information . . . help, education and entertainment—all the things a library provides now.”

Rosapepe said county libraries are a reflection of the times as well; “we’ve been especially valuable in the last few years to job seekers. We’ve never had so many people needing help with job seeking.  We’re playing an important role in the community right now.”

The county library’s reference department has also provided support for businesses valley-wide.  “I don’t know if people are really aware of how much help is being given to our area small businesses, which we’re pretty proud of,” says Rosapepe, who also suspects many will be proud of the new South County library when it opens later this year.

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Related Articles