The smiles on people’s faces spoke volumes Saturday as Chapel Hill dedicated its expanded library that Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt called the fulfillment of a decades-long dream.
“This is a joyous day in Chapel Hill,” Kleinschmidt said. “Today we finally have a library that the people of Chapel Hill deserve, and a community that is committed to these services.”
The library in Pritchard Park off Estes Drive costs $16.23 million to expand. Built with bonds voters approved in 2003, it more than doubles the size of the original facility, adding 35,000 square feet.
“I feel that it was a very good remodel,” said 12-year-old Matthew Hall, who began the ceremony singing with the Phillips Middle School choir. “I think that it will definitely make this community better.”
Matthew, a seventh-grader at Phillips, said he loves to use the library.
“I can read some things online [at home], but it’s a lot easier to just get the book from here and have that with me,” he said. “It’s a different concept than reading it on the computer. I’m glad to see that books are still around.”
His mother, Barbara Hall, praised the new library, but said that she’s concerned about the shorter hours, especially on weekends. Because of budget constraints, Saturday and Sunday hours have been cut from noon to 6 p.m. to 1 to 5 p.m.
“It took a lot of money to build the building, but now we have less access to it,” she said.
But in an interview Saturday, Kleinschmidt said that he hopes the town’s budget next fiscal year will provide enough money to expand library hours.
The library’s new director, Susan Brown, who comes onboard May 20, said the new facility – nestled in Pritchard Park – is like “a library in a tree house.”
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to the people of Chapel Hill and the values they place on civic engagement and lifelong learning, and a place for everyone.”
Mark Bayles, the museum’s interim director, said he especially likes the liberal use of natural light.
“It’s spacious and welcoming,” he said. “It fits into this beautiful park. The architect did a wonderful job of sort of bringing nature within, using very natural elements for the interior to blend with the exterior.”
Ken Redfoot, one of the architects, said his Chapel Hill firm worked with Robert A.M. Stern of New York City “to make sure we remained sensitive to the park’s theme while increasing overall footage.”
They created two additions – on the north and south sides of the original library building - using techniques to ensure “a very open and generous feeling.”
“I think this all shows up quite dramatically,” Redfoot said. “We’re really happy with the outcome.”