by Gene Marrano
A day that has long been on many people’s wish list, let alone long on the drawing board, finally arrives on January 3 with the opening of the South County library on Merriman Road. The new main library for Roanoke County, located across from Penn Forest Elementary School, replaces the outdated and overcrowded main library on 419, which closed several weeks ago. During that time the books located there have been migrating over to the new location.
That new space, which opens with an 11am ribbon cutting and other activities throughout the week, is a 54,000 square foot building that includes a large children’s section, a coffee shop (operated by Mill Mountain Coffee), views of Mason’s Knob from a reading nook located at the top of an impressive staircase and a large, curved circulation desk – very unlike the smaller space located at the old library.
An expanded number of computers (around 80) will be available to the public on the second floor. The ceilings are wood, giving the place the feel of a ski lodge and there is airiness to the structure. That’s what high ceilings and room to spread out will do for you. There’s also a young adult room, an auditorium and reference services.
The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors approved the project over two years ago, after it was streamlined due to budget concerns. Favorable conditions in the construction market actually brought down costs in the end. A grant will aid in the building of a wetlands trail on the library grounds, which will eventually connect to a planned walking path on a creek near adjacent ball fields.
The South County library is only one of several that Roanoke County is rebuilding. “Once that began and people saw what amenities would be in [the South County] library, it made it rather obvious that the rest of the libraries were inadequate and needed to be brought up to the same level,” said library director Diana Rosapepe several months ago. New Glenvar, Vinton and Mount Pleasant libraries are also on the to-do list.
More than 130,000 items will be moved to the new South County library by the time it opens on January 3. Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea will anchor the Commons Area, which features two 80-seat meeting rooms and the 200-seat auditorium. The two smaller spaces can be used as a spillover for events held in the auditorium (called The Forum), with an audiovisual feed keeping people connected.
Book drops for patrons driving cars, trucks or SUV’s will be available, and people can call ahead to have a book held for them. Those wanting to pick up a book before or after library hours can do so from secure lockers.
Opening week highlights: Action Animals USA (Tuesday, Jan. 3, 3:30 and 5pm) features exotic and domestic animals. James “Bud” Robertson speaks about the Civil War that same night at 7pm (a ticket is required) in the auditorium/meeting room space. There’s a K92 teen social on Thursday, January 5 at 6:30pm. Antiques appraiser Ken Farmer, who has appeared on the PBS program Antiques Roadshow makes an appearance at The Forum on January 6 (6:30pm). In the meeting rooms on Saturday, January 7 from 9am to 4pm there are free films for the younger crowd and music set to digital displays.
That same day in The Forum there is a magic show at 11am and 2pm by Nancy Kenton, who promises “magic, music, comedy and more!” Check out the library page on the Roanoke County website (roanokecountyva.gov) for more on opening week events at the newest public library in the Roanoke Valley.