Northern Neck Library Gets Strategic Help in Relocation

lancaster-exterior

The new home of the Lancaster Community Library, now under construction. (above)

Library director Lindsy Gardner shows a guest how the new space will function. (right)

KILMARNOCK, Virginia — By spring 2016, a former bowling alley will have a new life as the home of the Lancaster Community Library, a half-century-old institution that is a center of community activity in this coastal Virginia town.

The repurposed 27,000-square-foot building will include a cafe/coffee shop, community meeting rooms, a teen center, an expanded children’s center and private study rooms, in addition to the stacks and reading areas one traditionally expects in a library.

“We don’t need more space for books, we need more space for people,” said library Director Lindsy Gardner. “Program attendance is through the roof.”

While the Jessie Ball duPont Fund does not make grants for capital projects, the Fund has provided two critical pieces of support for the project.

In 2010, the Fund underwrote a feasibility study, allowing the library staff and trustees to assess what the community wanted and needed from its library, and how much money the library could realistically expect to raise for such a project. When the opportunity arose to purchase the bowling alley, the board knew it would meet community needs and was financially feasible.

In 2014, after purchasing the building, the Fund supported the cost of hiring a fundraising consultant and developing a case statement for the capital campaign.

“These are not large grants,” said Jessie Ball duPont Fund President Sherry Magill, “but they are critical to the organization’s success in projects such as these. Our goal is to help the organization plan thoughtfully and well, and access the expertise and tools it needs to execute that plan.”

The Lancaster Community Library was founded in 1961 and moved to its current quarters in 1975. With changes in technology and the changing role of the library in community life, the present facilities have become inadequate.

The Lancaster Community Library acts as a hub for the community. High-speed internet service is spotty in the rural Northern Neck and the number of free Wi-Fi locations is limited. There also are no commercial “office service centers” with public computer access and copying services. The library provides all of these resources, Gardner said.

Last year, she said, the library logged 22,000 screen hours on the library’s computers and another 22,000 hours were clocked by patrons connecting their own laptops or tablets through the library’s wireless system.

Gardner sees increasing demand from two types of telecommuters: the individual who lives in rural areas of the county and accesses the internet at the library when in town; and the second-home owner who can stretch the weekend into 3-4 days by working from home (the library) on a Friday or Monday.

Many of these same users end up connecting with some of the library programs, Gardner said. “Technology is lonely. People need a place to connect.”

The bowling alley was built in 2009 and is located two blocks from the current library and has ample parking. Lancaster Community Library purchased the building for $800,000. Renovations are expected to cost about $2.1 million. The Lancaster County School Board has agreed to purchase the current library building for about $600,000.