Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

TOP STORY >>Construction starting on new library

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville officials broke ground Wednesday on the city’s first library in 38 years.

The Esther D. Nixon Library should be ready for its readers in 14 months, according to Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Director Bobby Roberts.

The library will be built on Main Street across from Jacksonville Shopping Center. It will sit on 2.6 acres of land with a park and a gazebo.

The building will be 13,500 square-feet, compared to the old library built in 1969 with 9,265 square feet.
Many people attending the event agreed the new library is a plus for the city.

“This is a wonderful start to the downtown revitalization of Jacksonville. It will have curb appeal for the city. It will attract residents to come to the downtown area,” said Joe Crim, vice president commercial loan officer at Jacksonville’s Metropolitan National Bank.

“This is a project that shows patience pays off. It will better serve the citizens of Jacksonville,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said.

The new facility will have reading nooks, study rooms, a multipurpose meeting room for the community to use before and after library hours. It will have more computers and have wireless Internet access. The library will have an expanded collection of books for adults and children, depending on shelving space, Carrie Snodgrass, CALS media liaison, said.

“It’s a great day for Jacksonville. The library will have new energy and excitement,” said Alderman Kenny Elliott.

Swaim said money is still needed for the library and there has been lots of funding from private citizens to help the library.

Sue Khoo, owner of Unique Furniture, had a kung-fu fundraiser in June for the library. The event raised nearly $5,000 according to Khoo. She also mentioned 500 books were donated by Key International Centre for research and consultation company, Tianjin, China. A solar hot water system for the building with complete installation was donated by Jiangyin Wanlongyuan Technology Co. of Jiangsu, China.

The old Nixon library is limited on space, Jamie Melson, former library staff member said.

“During the summer reading program, we had between 65 to 100 people in the library. It doesn’t accommodate the growth of the community.

“Keeping the library anchored on Main Street is important for area businesses,” she said. The importance of the library is evident for people like Amy Miller, former library assistant manager, who believes it can help build her community.

“A library used as a community resource helps build the whole community,” she said.

Wilkins Construction of North Little Rock is building the $3.6 million library. Funds for the library are from a $2.5 million bond issue, $450,000 from the Central Arkansas Library System, $400,000 from capital improvement funds and $300,000 projected from the sale if the old library building is sold.

Neighboring First United Methodist Church could buy the old library. Jacksonville and CALS are in a partnership with the new library. The city will provide furniture and CALS will provide staff, supplies and materials for the library.