The North Wilmington Branch Library is set for a major renovation and expansion thanks to $6 million in Bond Bill funds allocated by the General Assembly.
The money will go toward site preparation and design, according to Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, who supported the library’s Bond Bill request.
“This project will have a significant impact on residents, especially our young people,” Chukwuocha said. “I’m looking forward to sharing more as this project moves forward.”
Branch director Jamar Rahming said the project will transform the library on North Market Street into a “library campus” that includes “space for large events and for community organizations to coalesce.”
During construction and once complete, Rahming said the upgraded branch will “spur economic development and enhance youth literacy rates in the North Wilmington area.”
The new space will be called the “Think. Do. Hub.” and will likely feature an updated facade, state-of-the-art lobby and event space, and resources to support workforce development in the community. According to concept renderings, there could also be a rooftop garden.
Rahming said he’s grateful that the legislature sees value in investing in North Wilmington — an area he said suffers from a “illiteracy epidemic.”
“We have a high volume of young Black kids in the city of Wilmington who cannot read by third grade,” Rahming said. “The stats and numbers show that young kids who don’t know how to read by the third grade are more vulnerable to criminality, recidivism, poverty, and other social ills that we’re trying to derail.”
Chukwuocha said in an interview with Delaware LIVE News that places like libraries and schools are essential to giving children in marginalized communities opportunities to succeed.
“When you look at gun and community violence that these young men and young ladies are encountering, that doesn’t lend itself to them becoming students who are graduating successfully from school and achieving and thriving in our educational system,” Chukwuocha said.
“They’re the ones who are falling through the cracks of our education system and they often end up on the streets, involved in a life of crime.”
Investing in those communities is more important now than ever, he said, and the library is just one example of that.
Chukwuocha also trying to expand Downtown Development Districts into the communities he serves so that they begin to receive the same level of investment as places like the Wilmington Riverfront, he said.
Rahming doesn’t know when construction will be completed, but he’s hoping it will be before the end of 2024.
“That might be a bit ambitious due to supply chain shortage, labor shortage and inflation,” he said.
He said Delaware’s a good place to be if you’re a library director.
“I’m just grateful that we have a state where the elected officials are library advocates,” Rahming said. “They don’t just do it in words — they do it in action. They have supported us gratuitously and without their advocacy and support, we would not be able to do the work that we do.”
Here’s what the North Wilmington Branch Library looks like now:
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