The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Library expansion ready for public view
After people check out the grand addition to the King George County library, they might need to check out a book about relief for a sore neck.
Chances are, visitors won’t just be looking around at the expansion of the L.E. Smoot Memorial Library.
They’ll spend a lot of time looking up—at the ceiling that’s almost 30 feet high, with hanging light fixtures, exposed wooden beams and round, shiny steel tubes of metal ductwork.
“It is amazing,” said Nikki Eaddy, stressing every word as she and her children craned their necks to take in the features. “This is really big, and it’s so nice, especially for King George. I can’t get over it.”
Residents will get a chance to see what library director Robin Tenney calls the “cathedral-like” appearance of the addition on Saturday.
The library is having a grand opening at 11 a.m. with tours and giveaways, as well as visits by county officials and relatives of the families who donated land for King George’s only library in 1969.
The county spent $5.88 million to build and furnish the addition—which more than doubles the size of the library—and to renovate the old portion.
The combination of old and new space is 28,000 square feet. Before the addition, the library had 10,000 square feet of space.
The cost included $1 million for furniture, technology-related expenses and various fees, according to county officials. The high price for some furnishings was an issue last year, when supervisors balked at spending $800 apiece for children’s seating. Tenney and others sought less-pricier items and removed some tables from the floor.
Patrons like the results.
“You have so much more room to accommodate the flow of people,” said Cassandra Hill, mother of three. “It’s a whole lot better than what was on the other side, although that was good, too.”
Library operations moved from the building on State Route 3, next to the courthouse, to the old King George Middle School in July 2011 when the expansion began. People checked out books at the old school until July 6, when operations closed there so workers could move the collections into the expansion.
The new addition was open from Sept. 10 through 22—giving some patrons a sneak preview of the new space—and is closed again this week to prepare for Saturday.
Those who visited during the two-week window were glad to have access to library materials again.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said Mandy Hill, who said her two children constantly asked, when they visited the middle school, when the real library would open again.
Cassandra Hill, a student at Strayer University, often does her homework at the library and is glad to see more computers available for the public.
“If you didn’t call and get your slot or get here bright and early, you were waiting and waiting” for a computer, she said.
There were nine stations before the expansion; the new space has 34. Officials hope to add 15 more.
There’s room for growth in the new addition. The library has 64,000 items in its collection and the light-colored shelves in the addition can accommodate at least another 8,000 volumes, Tenney said.
The old part of the library got a makeover as well. Designers kept the original, ornate molding, but replaced the “Smoot blue” paint with muted shades of pastel colors. The old space provides offices for staff and spaces for visitors.
There are four meeting rooms, including the formal Smoot Memorial Room—which got new windows and a ceiling. There’s also a kitchen for visiting groups to use, and another for the staff, and a resource room for teachers to use die-cut machines to cut out autumn leaves or Christmas trees for their preschool and home-schooled classes.
The original front entrance has become a “round room,” Tenney said, where the popular “story time” will be held. The room is filled with child-size tables and chairs in cheery colors and has its own bathroom.
It’s a far cry from the story days of old, which were held in the cramped staff offices or the middle of the floor, as residents read, worked on computers or filled out résumés.
The story room has plenty of windows, just like the new addition.
Light pours into the open floor, as well as the rooms designated for quiet study, teens or children. There are even windows around the top of the ceiling.
“I think it’s better because we have more natural light,” said Kyana Davis, 12. She regularly comes to the library after school.
Linda Furman is a member of the Friends of the Smoot Library, which has space for a small bookstore. She grew up in King George and said she’s never seen a building like this in the county.
But she’s always seen activity at Smoot, where 12,714 people—more than half of the county population—have library cards.
“Whenever I’ve been to the library, there have always been people there—old people, young people, kids,” she said. “I think this [addition] is wonderful, and I think it’ll be great for King George.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425