New public libraries are being built across Delaware, as part of a state government goal to have 1 square foot of library space for each resident.
That space and that expansion is a shorthand way to understand libraries’ increasingly broad roles. They have a long history of lending books and answering reference questions, but today’s libraries are adding to their status as community information centers with new items and new programs.
For instance, there’s the library of things, where patrons can check out board games, medical devices, gardening equipment and dozens of other items.
Kiosks provide spaces for people to have confidential tele-meetings with healthcare providers, government officials and potential employers.
Libraries served as distribution points for COVID testing, and some are hosting social workers.
And in some ways, the library has become the place to meet people,” said Kay Wheatley, president of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library board.
All these new services need space, which is why the state’s 33 public libraries today cover 636,952 square feet – more than doubling in the past decade.
These libraries are run by multiple governments and institutions and are connected through the Delaware Division of Libraries.
The American Rescue Plan Act Capital Projects Fund included $40 million for library improvements throughout all three counties:
- $11 million to the North Wilmington Library for a new building.
- $7.8 million to the Friends of Duck Creek Regional Library to build an expanded library.
- $7 million to the Selbyville Library for a new building.
- $5.6 million to the Harrington Library for a new building.
- $4 million to the Newark Public Library for a new building.
- $3 million to the Rehoboth Beach Public Library for upgrades.
- $900,000 to the Milford Public Library for updates to HVAC, filtration and ventilation.
- $750,000 to the Lewes Public Library for a new outdoor pavilion.
- $250,000 to the Georgetown Public Library for updates to HVAC, filtration and ventilation.
Of course, projects require additional funding from other sources.
Here’s an alphabetical roundup of library construction projects.
Duck Creek Regional Library
Construction is expected to start in October on the new Duck Creek Regional Library in downtown Smyrna, according to Wheatley, a consultant on the project.
The new library incorporates an old post office building into the design, said Katie McDonough, an administrative librarian with the Delaware Division of Libraries.
The Friends of the Duck Creek Library says the idea for expansion dates back to a 2007 needs assessment.
Ground was broken in June for a 15,312-square-foot building to replace what the state says is “the only public library in the state not operating out of a facility built to be a library.” The new building, at 101 Little Mastens Corner Road, is expected to open in the last quarter of 2024. That’s a huge leap in space from the 2,000 square feet in the current building.
The new building is south of the current library and just north of Lake Forest South Elementary.
The library, which is run by the city of Harrington, is attempting to set up a library tax district within the Lake Forest School District, a library page says.
Residents of Kent County, outside Harrington, pay a library tax to the county of $0.03 per $100 of assessed value. A Harrington library tax district would send such money directly to the Harrington library, and the tax would be roughly $0.049 per $100 of assessed value, the page says.
Newark Free Library
New Castle County has decided to update the Newark Free Library on the same site, the aptly named Library Avenue, on the eastern edge of downtown. The new, two-story building will have 50% more interior space, and there will be 80% more parking.
It’s a $44 million project, according to the Friends of Newark Free Library.
The current building is 26,500 square feet, and the expansion to 40,000 square feet would make it as big as the Brandywine Hundred library.
North Wilmington Branch Library
A new branch of the Wilmington library will be built 0.2 miles north of the North Wilmington Branch, which is undergoing a major renovation. The new $22 million branch will be at 3905 N. Market St. and cover 24,000 square feet.
The current branch – 6,500 square feet at 3400 N. Market St. – will get $6 million in renovations. The renovations – branded as “Think. Do. Hub” – are planned to include an event space, resources to support workforce development and a rooftop garden.
Rehoboth Beach Public Library
The Rehoboth Beach Public Library has been in its current downtown location since 1985, a history on the library’s site says.
Needs assessments and surveys have shown that patrons are concerned about parking and traffic downtown, so the library is buying five acres west of the Coastal Highway, Wheatley said.
The site is on Warrington Road, just south of Route 24 and across the incomplete roundabout from the new Beebe Healthcare facility.
She expects all the community outreach, planning and construction to take several years.
A key issue: what will be offered downtown and what will be offered on Warrington Road. “I expect both to have a lot of [non-book] features,” she said, especial for children and retirees. “I got involved with the library probably 15 years ago, and one thing that really impressed me is that way that libraries have been flexible and adapted to societal changes to be able to serve their constituency.”
They’ll be places to meet.”
She said that the new site might develop programming with Love Creek Elementary and Beacon Middle, which sit across from each other on Route 24, at the next intersection heading inland.
The downtown library is on three lots, and one or two lots might be sold, she said.
The current library has 11,000 square feet, and the new one is projected to have 18,000 square feet.
Construction is expected to start in August on a new Selbyville library, Wheatley said, noting that the project was delayed after an adjacent lot was bought and the building was redesigned.
The new library will be 14,000 square feet, she said, at a cost of $14.8 million, with an opening date sometime in fiscal 2025. It will be built next door to the current library, which covers 5,600 square feet at 11 S. Main St. The current library building will be demolished.
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