Expanded Chapel Hill Public Library reopens

mschultz@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2013 

  • A Timeline • 1958: Chapel Hill’s first public library opens at 115 W. Franklin St. • 1967: New library built with bond money opens at 523 E. Franklin St. • 1985-86: Planning starts for new library and voters approve new bond to pay for its construction • 1994: Expanded library opens at 32-acre Pritchard Park off Estes Drive • 2003: Voters approve $16.23 million library expansion bond • 2011-12: Library moves to University Mall and construction starts • 2013: Expanded library reopens.

    Staff Writer Tammy Grubb

— The Chapel Hill Public Library reopened Wednesday morning after a $16.2 million expansion that more than doubles its size.

“Awesome,” said Klara Leibig.

The German nanny and Lillian Pence, 2, of Carrboro were among the first through the door as the library began a soft opening” leading to an official celebration April 20.

“We loved the old one,” Leibig said as Lillian thumbed through “Sweet Dreams, Little Bunny!” But the old library, especially its children’s area, was often crowded. “This one is so much better.”

The Chapel Hill library is the busiest in the state based on circulation per capita. About 1,085 people visit daily and 375,000 people each year.

Voter approved a $16.2 million expansion bond in 2003 that has added 35,000 square feet to the 27,000 square foot building, which opened in 1994.

There’s now a second entrance, second parking lot, expanded children’s room, a teen room, 200 desk areas with electrical outlets, more meeting space and 10 foot louvered windows that were getting Windexed Wednesday to let in natural light. There’s also a traffic light at the bottom of the driveway hill at Estes Drive.

“I don’t think people realize this was done in 13 months,” senior engineering inspector Michael “MC” Russell said as he stood outside looking things over.

Russell was a carpenter on the original building.

“I thought it was going to last a little longer,” he said. “But it’s gotten so much use,” he said, thanks to former director Kathy Thompson, interim director Mark Bayles and the Friends of the Library.

Russell’s son, now 30, grew up using the library and now his grandson will use it.

“I’ve been in Chapel Hill almost my entire life,” he said proudly. “Everybody reads.”

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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