A regional library for northern Kent County is expected to be built in two years will replace the current Smyrna Public Library and provide a service for residents in the Duck Creek area.
Bringing a regional library to Smyrna has been a long time in the making.
With a 2,500-square foot Smyrna Public Library, the town and its residents have long had a need for a larger library. Smyrna Town Council members took a big step in May when Mayor Joanne Masten signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the future library site in the municipal parking lot off of Main Street.
While the town council had previously designated the future location of the library, the MOU clarified the land acquisition process.
The town currently owns the parking lot, which is behind the old post office on Main Street. Under the MOU, the town agreed to assist the Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library – previously known as the Smyrna Public Library Guild – in its attempt to acquire land around the parking lot, which also would be used for library purposes.
Once the acquisition process is complete, the town will lease the property to the library group for 99 years at a fee of $1 per year. The MOU also states the property shall be used for the construction and later operation of a regional public library. Should the project fail to come to fruition in five years, the MOU and lease agreement would be voided.
“We hope to be an integral part of rebuilding downtown and in five years be able to say, ‘We did this,’” Friends co-president Jonette Oldham said.
The Duck Creek Regional Library is planned to be a 25,000-square-foot building that includes a reference room, a children’s room, a computer room with 20-plus computers for public use, and an expanded collection of books and media.
Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library has been busy over the last few months.
The Dover-based Becker Morgan Group was hired to serve as the architect, while fundraisers were held this summer that brought in $12,000. Grants and donations have been received, as well. A needs assessment has been updated and properties surrounding the future library site that could be added to project have been appraised.
Oldham said the extra properties will help enhance the library.
“We will be hosting focus groups in October or November by Becker Morgan to help see what people want in the library and try to adapt that into the building,” Oldham said.
The focus groups will be held with several potential stakeholders of the proposed regional library, including seniors, students and the general public.
“Not everything will end up in the library, but we will try,” said Kay Wheatley, a consultant on the project.
Following the focus groups, Becker Morgan will prepare a conceptual drawing, which is expected to be available in the first half of 2015.
The construction project is estimated to cost about $10 million, with the state picking up $5 million of the price tag, or half of the construction costs. The friends group will be responsible for raising the remaining funds.
Wheatley said additional $1 to $2 million also will be needed for “soft” costs, such as increasing the book collection and helping to sustain the cost of running the library, which will be managed by an independent governing board.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2016 and be completed one year later.
“The library has done a magnificent job with what they have but we need to evolve,” Wheatley said. “It’s not just about books anymore. It’s about technology and having a job center and more to help the community.”