About 500 people showed up to celebrate the grand opening of the new Dover Public Library with city, Kent County and state of Delaware officials.

One thing that city, county and state officials made clear Thursday at the grand opening of the new Dover Public Library was that libraries were here to stay as an integral part of civilization and learning.

"A lot of people wonder why libraries matter anymore with so much available online," Gov. Jack Markell said during the opening ceremonies Wednesday morning. "But it's just such an important part of our community."

He said anyone who doubted that could simply walk into the Dover Public Library and see how state-of-the-art technology had complemented old school books and shelves.

And the brand new Dover Public Library would be an anchor not just to downtown Dover, but to all of Kent County, local and state officials said.

"Libraries are a reflection of the aspirations of a community," Delaware State Librarian Dr. Annie Norman said. "The library engages us in developing our unique talents and ingenuity, to rise above the economic crisis and achieve the Delaware dream."

Gov. Markell, First Lady Carla Markell and Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock said the sizeable crowd of about 500 was strong evidence of how much support there had been for the new Dover Library.

"I don't think I've ever been to an opening that had this many citizens of a community," said Carla Markell, honorary chairperson of the Dover Public Library's capital campaign that raised $1.7 million. "I'm really thrilled to see you all here; it's like an exact cross section of our community."

The library had been a long time coming, Dover Library Director Margie Cyr said. City officials began discussing a new library back in 2001, and many officials from the city of Dover, Kent County Levy Court and the state had teamed up with passionate community members to bring this library to fruition, she said.

Markell gave Cyr credit for being "the champion" of the library. And he thanked Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) and State Rep. Darryl Scott (D-Dover) for their work to secure funding in the state Bond Bill for the library.

EDiS of Wilmington oversaw more than a dozen subcontractors from the Tri-State area that constructed the $20.8 million building paid for with a combination of city and state funding complemented by a grassroots fundraising campaign. Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York designed the classically-styled building.

After opening ceremonies, South Dover Elementary School students from second grader teacher Cindy Junge's class were the first ones to officially enter the building, where Jack and Carla Markell read to them.

The governor and the first lady then selected one of the children's names out of a hat to see who would be the first person to officially check out a book from the new library. That honor went to Capital's South Dover Elementary second grader Kayla Waweru, and the Markells escorted her to the circulation desk to check out a children's book.

"It was awesome," Waweru said. "I think it's very cool and I might come here every single day."

The library's grand opening also drew plenty of young families curious to see the state-of-the-art facility.

They included Leigh Torres, of Dover, her son, Augie, 4, and her daughter, Mila, 2. Torres' family recently moved to Dover from Colorado because her husband, a U.S. airman, was assigned to the Dover Air Force Base.

"I'm a former teacher and finding a new library is really important to me," Torres said. "And at the old library, Miss Jackie's story time was phenomenal. Now, to have this beautiful facility — it's something for them to look forward to."

Another U.S. Air Force family – Samantha Meinders and her sons Dylan, 4, and Noah, 1, of Camden – picked out the book "Space Case" from the children's section.

"I love that it's LEED certified and the children's facility is amazing," Meinders said.

Lyanna Anderson, of Dover, browsed books with her 5-month-old son, Joshua, and her daughter, Lilly, 3. Lilly picked out a book called "Iris has a Virus."

"I love it," Anderson said. "It's colorful. I love how it kind of looks like a submarine with all the different windows everywhere. And the indoor play area is fantastic."