Construction begins on library

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

With the twist of their shovels, city lawmakers on Wednesday opened a new chapter in Suffolk’s history book of capital projects.

The Suffolk City Council broke ground on the $4.7 million, 22,500-square-foot library, slated to open next fall on Bennetts Creek Park Road. The long-awaited library is the latest in a string of capital projects under way in the community off Shoulders Hill Road, including Creekside Elementary School and the new north Suffolk YMCA.

“This is a happy day for the entire city,” said Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson, who represents the Sleepy Hole borough where the library is being built. “I’m thrilled. This has been something I wanted since the day I came on council … and today it is finally beginning.

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“Books are my passion,” she said. “There is no greater education than you get from opening a book, feeling its pages, becoming a part of it.

“Books expand your mind and take you to places you have never been.”

Books are just one of the more than 100,000 offerings that will be available in the northern Suffolk library, said Gerry Jones, the city’s capital projects director. Library patrons will also be able to check out the latest CDs and DVDs.

The library will feature the latest technology available, including wireless Internet connection, Jones said. It will house branch offices for the city treasurer and commissioner of revenue.

The new north Suffolk library, in the works for at least the past five years, is just one of the new libraries in the city’s pipeline, said Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett.

“We are not stopping in the northern part of the city,” he said. “Money is already being put into place to build a new library downtown.”

Elliott Drew, executive director of Suffolk Public Library System, is looking forward to opening the new library. For years, library patrons in north Suffolk have checked out books from a mobile building tucked into a side parking lot at John Yeates Middle School.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Drew.

In fact, Wednesday’s groundbreaking was the first for a new public library in nearly five decades, said Drew.

Although several existing buildings have been renovated and turned into libraries over the years, the last groundbreaking for a new library was held in the late 1950s for the Bosley Avenue building.

That downtown library outgrew the facility n which is now home to the Suffolk Art League n years ago, he added.