Labor of love

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

Officials cut a ribbon during the grand opening of the new Troy Public Library in Troy, Ala., Thursday, July 12, 2012. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Hundreds gather for a glimpse at Troy’s new library

Shane Griffin beamed ear-to-ear as he watched his daughters in front of a giant indoor castle at the Troy Public Library Thursday morning.

“The library is usually our summer spot,” Griffin said, patting his daughter Kennedy, 9, on the back. “She loves to read.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Griffin’s other daughter, Kyla, 5, was working on a dragon puzzle.

The family made up a portion of the few hundred people who were present for the library’s grand opening.

Before Troy boasted its on public library, Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said that the city was once only a member of the Choctawhatchee Regional Library System. Now, the city is home to a state-of-the art facility that was built for just under $4 million.

Lunsford credited former library staff, library patrons and the Library Board for the new facility.

“We had to have a strong foundation to get to the point we are today,” Lunsford said.

“This has been a labor of love for all involved,” said Jason Reeves, city councilman. “We have been working on this in excess of 15 years.”

Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. reminded those present, in the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “Libraries are not a luxury. They are a necessity.”

Hawkins shared that he was given the honor of filing the last card in the card catalog at the old library building before the switch was made to a computerized catalog. He said it was symbolic of the library being both high tech, but remaining high touch thanks to the people who work there.

“At the heart of great enterprise lies great people,” Hawkins said.

As the library transitioned from an old building that was formerly Troy Bank & Trust, more than 66,000 books, audio books, CDs and movies were transported by hand to the new facility on Walnut Street.

Library Director William White could barely hide his excitement in front of the crowd gathered outside the new building for their first peek inside.

“This is probably one of the biggest days of my life,” White shared, adding that he’d prepared a speech he wasn’t going to read. “I’m not going to read the speech. I just want you to see the building.”

City officials and library supporters stood in front of the building Thursday morning behind a large red bow as area boys and girls counted down from 10.

At one, White snipped the ribbon as the crowd cheered, then poured into the marble-floored facility with huge columns and an ornate staircase.

The biggest crowd pleaser is an indoor castle on the first floor that holds a children’s reading area and a puppet theater. Plush dragons stand guard where children can sit at knightly tables to put together puzzles and play games.

Even the restrooms are labeled “knights” for boys and “princesses” for girls.

“Oh, wow!” and “Look at that!” resounded through the high ceilinged building as people explored every book nook and sitting area.

On the second floor is a stately genealogy room and another room with a cafe vibe that’s geared toward young adults.

“What I like about the library is that it is so big!” said Katlyn Gibson, 5, as she rocked on a princess horse inside the castle.

Her brother, Ray Gibson, 3, was beside her rocking on a knight’s stallion.

“I like this thing!” Ray said about his rocking horse.

Kristina LeCroy, a research assistant at the library, said she thought the new facility was wonderful.

“It’s been fun watching people’s faces as they come up the stairs,” LeCroy said. “Everyone looks in awe, and rightly so.”

Almost 30 minutes after the opening of the library doors, White had not made it beyond the building foyer. There was still a line of people waiting to congratulate him.

“I’m very happy,” White said as he looked around at everyone. “Very happy.”