‘A momentous occasion’: City breaks ground on new library

PELHAM – On Tuesday, May 9, the city of Pelham broke ground on the new Pelham Public Library, which will be built on U.S. 31 in Pelham City Park in front of the under-construction Pelham Park Middle School and Pelham Recreation Center.

Past and present city leaders, library staff and members of the Pelham Library Guild and the Pelham Library Board attended the groundbreaking for the planned 20,000 square-foot facility. Each floor of the two-story structure will be 10,000 square feet.

“Two groundbreakings in two days – we could get used to this,” Pelham Mayor Gary Waters said, referring to the groundbreaking for the HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital on Monday, May 8. “This is a good day for Pelham and a good day for everyone.”

Councilman Maurice Mercer called the event a “momentous occasion.”

“It took a lot of future thinking and future planning to turn this dream into a reality,” he said.

The $4 million library will take about 10 months to complete, meaning it will likely be completed sometime in March 2018.

During the groundbreaking, library director Mary Campbell thanked the City Council, the mayor, the library board and the library guild for the parts they each played in the process of constructing a new library.

“Without the library guild we wouldn’t have the around $70,000 to put toward the new library,” Campbell said.

The guild’s goal is to raise $300,000 to fund special elements inside the library. City Council president Rick Hayes said the guild has fundraising campaigns under way for naming rights for meeting rooms and various areas of the library and will include a donor wall inside the library.

Campbell noted that the project started under former Mayor Don Murphy.

“That’s when we really started believing that this was possible,” she said.

Waters added that had Murphy not had the vision to vacate Belle Vista Mobile Home Park “none of this would be here,” referring to the construction of the rec center, middle school and library.

But Campbell and Waters said it was former library director Barbara Roberts who was the first true visionary for the project.

“She was the one who first started raising money and she knew full well what we had to do and what we needed to do,” Waters said.

Hayes said it’s great to see the idea for a new public library take shape.

“We all got beat up many times by people saying that libraries are a dying art,” Hayes said. “Now as you look around you can see the whole city center here is taking shape.”

Councilwoman Mildred Lanier said having a new library will be a wonderful opportunity for the city and she’s excited about what lies ahead.