South Coastal Library inches to re-opening

For the past week, it’s been all work and no play for the staff of at the South Coastal Library, as the move back to their renovated location on Kent Avenue in Bethany Beach got under way. For 14 months, the library operated out of its temporary spot in the Creekside Plaza in Millville, but the move back to the 10,000-square-foot expansion – essentially doubling the original size of the building – appears to be off to a promising start that will be fully realized by the time the library reopens this spring.

“The first day of the move, we had all hands on deck,” said Library Director Sue Keefe. “The Millville location has worked out well, much better than we ever thought it would.”

Books, computers and furniture are being moved back to the new building, after nearly $6 million funded the library’s expansion and facelift. The Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL) helped finance a large portion of the project, raising nearly $2 million in their efforts. Roughly $4.5 million came from the state and county, combined.

The increase in floor space will drastically add to the accommodations at the new library, allowing for more classes and group meetings, as well as larger children’s and young adults’ areas.

Moving everything back has been quite a task in itself.

“It took us about two months to move everything from the old building to storage and Millville,” Keefe noted. “It’s taking us longer to move back, because we’re bringing books back from Millville, out of storage, and there’s new stuff constantly coming in.”

Computer installation and wiring have also been an intricate part of the move. And the completion of the building has been inhibited due to the cold and snowy weather in the past month.

“We only have one layer of asphalt in our parking lot so far,” Keefe added. “The paving companies have been closed because of the temperatures and won’t be open until mid- to late March. Basically, it’s ruling our timetable. We’d like to have everything open, though, by early April.”

Parking should improve at the renovated library, too, as 100 spots were planned into the expansion. An outdoor reading garden, situated on the back portion of the building, will allow for relaxing reading in the spring and summer sun. Local metal works artist Grant Massey even jumped on board and plans to contribute a one-of-a-kind piece for the garden.

Inside, a new children’s room will provide more space to read and learn, with comfortable seating and additional computers.

“The kids will have plenty of room,” said Keefe, “and I think they’ll really enjoy that.”

The room at the east end, which originally served as the children’s room and the Delmarva room, will be transformed into a refurbished young-adult section, complete with computers, CD collection and plenty of reading material.

A divided conference room, with overhead projectors, will offer more organizations and groups room to meet at the library than were previously supported.

“Over the past year,” Keefe added, “a lot of these groups had to meet in churches, and that didn’t always allow for the room they needed. Now, we’ll be able to have more groups meet and they can come in more often.”

Two study rooms will give visitors the privacy and quiet they need. A new computer lab will permit individual classes to be taught without disturbing patrons who are using the public computers. And members of FOSCL will be pleased to have a larger office to work in at the new South Coastal Library, too.

With the project finishing up, Keefe and her staff are thankful that most of the grunt work is behind them.

“The economy was really kicking four to five years ago, well before we started this undertaking,” said Keefe. “We’re glad we’re as far along as we are now. If we started everything now, it wouldn’t get done. FOSCL has really been there for us, and the community. It’s so nice to have the support when we did.”

“It’s all very exciting,” said Assistant Director Barbara Litzau. “We’re so close now and can’t wait for the public to come in. It’s just amazing. All the staff is eager to get over here and start it all again.”

“We want their jaws to drop,” said Keefe of the planned spring grand-opening and all the returning visitors thereafter. “People here know what’s going on, and most of them traveled down to Millville while we were there, but the summer people didn’t always know where it was. They just knew we weren’t here.”

The South Coastal Library officially closed on Feb. 2 as preparation for the move began. The library will remain closed through early April. Stay updated with additional information in the Coastal Point as the grand reopening approaches.