Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Long Awaited Library Opens
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Apr 29, 2014, 13:14

CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The front of the new Petersburg Public Library is shown Saturday during a grand opening event.
PETERSBURG — Under the warm sun on Saturday morning, hundreds gathered to attend the culmination of a 10-year vision: the grand opening of the $12 million Petersburg Public Library. The event brought together city and state leaders and residents from all around to view and step inside the brand new facility. 

“This is the future. This is more than a library. It is truly more than a library,” Del. Rosalyn Dance said at the ceremony. She said the library will be a “one-stop” service center, as it houses computers, research materials, classrooms for education, and even a cafe. “This is a dream that became a reality. It is one of those things we can showcase around the world.” 

For many, the dream was 10 years in the making. Petersburg Mayor Brian Moore said that everyone in the city had “a stake in it’s success.” That was proven during the fundraising efforts of the The Petersburg Library Foundation. It was reported last year that the foundation had raised $11 million with more than 1,300 donors. 

“Petersburg needs to show the world we are important, we are somebody and this project does that,” State Sen. Henry Marsh said at the event. He recalled a moment in history when African Americans were not allowed through the doors of the former Petersburg library. “This is a moment that has never happened before in the history of Petersburg.” 

Robert C. Walker, chairman of the Petersburg Library Foundation, said there were “so many things in here for our community.” As visitors stepped beyond the large double glass doors of the library, it is clear that Walker’s statement is indeed true. 

The bottom floor houses numerous computers and a large section reserved for children. The room was filled with children and parents on Saturday morning as some children raced to find their favorite book and others started playing educational games on computers. 

Lindsay Walker and her 7-year-old son, Robert, came from Richmond to attend the grand opening celebration. Robert was handing his mom a book, ready to go grab more and head to check out. 

“It’s amazing,” Lindsay said. “It’s truly a dream come true for Petersburg.” 

In addition to the large downstairs area, which also includes a cafe and small gift shop, there is also an upstairs area which houses a large fiction and non-fiction area, along with a Virginia history room. 

The centerpiece of the library can be seen on the ground floor of the library. Gil Entzminger, from Enteros Design in Petersburg, approached Cindy Haynie, co-owner of Appomattox Tile Art in Petersburg, as construction began on the new Petersburg Library facility. 

“He knew the library was going to be something special and he wanted to see if we could donate anything that could be special,” Haynie said at the beginning of the year. 

The crowd begins to filter in during the grand opening on Saturday.
The design, called a medallion, is a 350 foot mosaic piece and is a donation from the company to the library, a donation Haynie estimated to cost about $50,000. It features buildings from around Petersburg as well as a nature scape and books. 

Wayne Crocker, director of the Petersburg Public Library said the library goes beyond books. It is a place for community members to come and transform. There are rooms reserved for several nonprofits with a mission to educate. The space is being offered for free to nonprofits that help adults read, offer health education and business development. Crocker said the library is to help people discover, to help them read, to help them grow. 

“Whatever contribution I made to this library will have not been in vain,” Crocker said. 

Perhaps the busiest section of the library on Saturday was at the checkout desk, with people ready to get their new library cards. Ernestine Thompson, of Colonial Heights, and her niece Marie Thompson, of Petersburg, sat by one of the large windows, filling in their information, and getting ready to browse the books. 

“I love it. I couldn’t wait until it opened,” Marie said. She, as well as hundreds of others, stood outside and waited for almost an hour on Saturday before the doors were opened. “I would like to see what kind of classes they may have here.” 

Describing herself as an avid reader, Ernestine was ready to take a look at all the library had to offer. She too wanted to attend a class at the library, a class she hoped would be about computers. 

“I love it. It’s one of the nicest libraries I have ever seen,” Ernestine said. “I started reading when I was 12. I would get under the covers with a flashlight. I encourage everyone to read, read, read.” 

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