New Library Plan Invests In Neighborhood Branches

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Charlie Anderson, Project Engineer and Sheila Umberger, Dir. of Roanoke City Libraries.
Charlie Anderson, Project Engineer and Sheila Umberger, Dir. of Roanoke City Libraries.

by Valerie Garner

Say good-bye to the 30,000 square foot “super branch” and say hello to your new and improved neighborhood library branch. The lot on Peters Creek Road near the Cove Road intersection was purchased for the city by former City Manager Darlene Burcham for $900,000 in October of 2009. It was to serve the northwest area as a “super branch” that Burcham said was in “just the right spot. The branch was to have a cafe, 100 computers and a drive-through window.

Most agreed it was a poor location. It has no cross-over of the median to gain entrance, and living near it didn’t help either; there was no safe access for pedestrians or bicycles. City Manager Chris Morrill said they’d probably sell it.

In its place they plan to build a 6500 square foot library at the city-owned former Countryside Golf Course property. It will fit in with the Village Center that the Master Plan calls for in future development.

Director of Roanoke City Libraries Sheila Umberger told City Council at their briefing Monday morning that the $13.9 million figure in the Capital Improvement Project Library plan would not change. The funds destined for the super library will be reallocated to additions and renovations of local library branches.

Umberger said the original library master plan was formed when circulation was shrinking and visits were declining. Visits to libraries have increased 33 percent since then, she said.

Umberger said that circulation at the Main library had doubled in the last five years. Since it is now destined to be part of the redesign of Elmwood Park it made sense to “integrate the library and enhance and connect the family areas of the park.”  Charlie Anderson, the city’s project engineer, said the Main library would include improvements to the children’s area, teen center and enhance adult services. It would have a more user-friendly entrance and a new rear terrace would be constructed along with upgrades to the existing patio.

The Melrose library would add a teen center, tutoring rooms and the community room would be enlarged. Circulation has tripled there in the last five years.

Raleigh Court library’s circulation has increased 35% since Roanoke County closed the 419 library and moved it to their new South County super library. A 5000 square foot addition will be added, making a larger children’s area as well as a new teen center and community room. The building also needs a new roof and HVAC system. The goal is to have it LEED certified.

In South Roanoke, Umberger proposes an e-Branch in the village center and adding a book drop and lockers for pick-up.

For the Williamson Road library a 4000 square foot addition is planned with expanded children’s area, teen space and meeting rooms for tutors and students. A drive-through service is also on the table.

The success and usage of the improved southeast Jackson Park library and the new Gainsboro library have turned the focus back to neighborhood libraries.

Councilman Sherman Lea noted that libraries were a stimulus for area growth. Bill Bestpitch agreed saying that “it was a much better direction to go.”