Book by book, a new $17.8 million library is being constructed in northeast Louisville.
The city is replacing the Westport Road branch of the Louisville Free Public Library with the much-larger 40,000-square-foot Northeast Regional Library located on Bellevoir Circle off Ormsby Station Road near the Northeast YMCA. The city and state are paying $14 million for the new library, with private donors contributing the remaining $3.8 million.
While the building will actually be made out of glass, steel and other building materials (not books), it was the number of books and other materials being checked out that prompted its construction. Library users in the northeast service area represent almost 25 percent of the library system’s total annual circulation, having checked out more than 1 million books and other materials last fiscal year, officials say.
City and library officials broke ground on the new Northeast Regional Library Thursday morning. Construction will wrap up in early 2019.
“One of our city values is lifelong learning. Any city that’s ‘got it going on’ is a city where people are always learning, always creating. Entrepreneurial activity comes out of that,” Mayor Greg Fischer said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “A great city has got a great free public library system. Our libraries are the hubs for lifelong learning.”
Once open, Louisville will have a full-service library within five miles of 90 percent of Louisville residents.
The new state-of-the-art Northeast Regional Library will feature an expanded book and DVD collection, as well as the latest technologies. The library will include quiet reading and study spaces, an auditorium, meeting rooms, and a hands-on makerspace with an audio/visual lab and demonstration kitchen.
“The Northeast Regional Library will be a hub for educational and community engagement and a cultural centerpiece,” Library Director Jim Blanton said in a news release. “Its location near the Northeast YMCA, U of L Shelby Campus, 70 independent cities and municipalities, and more than 50 schools will provide convenient access to a vibrant community, eager for improved library services, collaborative events, and robust programming.”
The new library also will be surrounded by a park-like exterior with plenty of trees, walking paths and usable outdoor space.
“I can just envision families coming out on a day like this where it is absolutely beautiful and within this whole area they can have complete experience if they choose,” Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, R-14, said at the ceremony. “One of the nice features about this library is there is going to be so much glass, and that is going to be so wonderful when you come in to choose the library [materials] and come in to learn and also partake in this nature.”
The Northeast Regional Library is the last of three regional libraries to get a complete makeover with a new building.
The Southwest and South Central Regional libraries have already reopened, and according to Fischer, are seeing increases in people checking out items and using space within the libraries. Materials checked out at the South Central Regional Library has gone up 170 percent since it opened in late July, he noted.
“Our Louisville Free Public libraries provide citizens of every age in our community access to not just information but also job opportunities and learning through classes and workshops, lectures that go on in the communities and serve increasingly as community gathering points. We look at libraries as living rooms here in Louisville,” Fischer said.
JRA Architects of Louisville, Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd. of Minneapolis, MKSK of Ohio and library staff designed the Northeast Regional Library.