The South Coastal Library celebrated its expansion with a ground-breaking ceremony on Friday, April 11.
U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) was on hand to celebrate the ground-breaking, as were state Rep. Gerald Hocker, Sussex County Councilman George Cole, Sussex County Administrator David Baker, Bethany Beach Town Councilman J. Robert “Bob” Parsons, Bethany Beach Mayor Carol Olmstead, South Coastal Library Director Sue Keefe, Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL) Capital Campaign Co-chair Joan Thomas and FOSCL President Susan Sterner. Many other friends and supporters attended as well.
Thomas noted that the construction on the new library facilities had actually started in January, moving the project from fundraising “collaboration to bricks and mortar.” More than 1,500 contributors have helped raised $2 million dollars of FOSCL’s $2.5 million goal. Thomas thanked Hocker and state Sen. George Howard Bunting for being on the advisory board of the campaign and said that they are looking forward to being “full steam ahead” next summer.
Keefe said what she and her staff are most looking forward to with the expansion is the additional room.
“We’ve hit the point in the summer where we had to turn people away, and now we’ll have extra rooms for programming, so it will be awesome!” she said. “Our meeting room will be dividable, so we’ll be able to have two meetings going on at once.
“We are expanding the children’s room — they are going to have their own room and center, which will have all-glass rooms so it will have lots of natural light and will be able to open up into the garden,” Keefe added. “The teens will have their own room, and both the teens and the children’s room will have their own set of computers.”
Keefe also mentioned that the library will be able to expand its adult collections, DVDs, audiobooks and play-aways, thanks to the expansion.
“We have some now, but they are really exploding and getting more popular,” she said of the modern selections. “We’ll be able to have computer classes without encroaching on regular patrons. The computer classroom is always booked a month or two in advance, and now we’ll have 24 computers for patrons.”
Keefe mentioned that the library will also have a garden off of the Cultural Center and Children’s Room that will have bushes with railings and a gate, so when weather permits, they will be able to safely hold children’s programs outside.
Hocker joked on April 11 that somebody must have been praying, because they’d gotten pretty far on construction for the day of the ground-breaking ceremony, referring to the fact that actual construction started at the site back in January. He also sent regrets from Bunting, who has been very involved in the library’s fundraising efforts.
Hocker also noted that people questioned the size of the original library as it opened 14 years ago.
“We had all the money raised prior to building it. So we said, why not build it? Knowing how the area would grow. And 14 years later, that library is too small,” he said.
He mentioned that the money for the initial construction was raised with the help of the community, much like with the current expansion project. “Nobody does it alone. It takes a team effort.”
Carper was on hand to reminisce about his own vacations in Bethany Beach with his wife and sons, and remarked on what he said is going to be a great resource for the town and surrounding areas.
“How many of you live here year–round?” he asked. “And how many of you vacation in Wilmington in the summer?” he joked.
“People choose to vacation here and choose to live here because of the quality of life and quality of life has more to do with education, jobs, clean air and water and a clean beach,” said Carper. “Quality of life is also a library.”
“It’s so gratifying to see the communities come together to raise the money. The state, the county, that everybody is a part of it, is remarkable. This library has changed so much since it first started. It’s going to be the finest library in this state or any other state. It’s a happy day,” said Carper.
He also mentioned that no federal funds went into the expansion project. Funding from the state is estimated at $3 million and funding from the Sussex County Council is estimated at $1.5 million, with the remaining money coming from the Friends of the South Coastal Library.
Keefe summed up the overall feelings of gratitude and excitement that the expansion will bring.
“To quote Cicero,” she said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”