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Library receives donation at Groundbreaking Ceremony

Professor Dr. Manfred Psiorz, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals Inc., presents a $40,000 donation to the Petersburg Library Foundation last Monday during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Petersburg library. The Petersburg firm has given nearly $100,000 toward the effort to build a new library in the community. Construction of a new $12.7 million library is set to start soon.

(Photo courtesy of John Rooney)

Persistence, patience and faith marked with groundbreaking for library

Wayne Crocker, director of library services, said that when he first proposed a new library, the idea was met with chuckles

The Rev. Andrew White Sr., campaign co-chair for the Petersburg Library Foundation, and others fling dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for a new Petersburg Public Library. After years of effort by many, the vision of a $12.6 million library at the corner of Washington and Market streets in Petersburg is now one step closer to reality.

Progress-Index -by F.M. Wiggins (Staff Writer)

Published: May 1, 2012

PETERSBURG – The toss of a few shovels filled with dirt heralded the beginning of a project that some questioned the need for, some questioned whether it was possible, but one that will become an integral part of the community when completed.

Wayne Crocker, director of library services for the Petersburg Public Library, said when he first proposed the idea of a new library it was met with a few loud chuckles.

“Then they asked why we needed a new library,” Crocker said. “I explained that the current library was originally built as a house in 1859 and they asked me, ‘What’s wrong with that?'”

Crocker said that over time there were more questions about the need for a library, but those eventually gave way to the question of, “When are we going to build a new library?”

The most visible milestone in the answer to that question took place Monday when a group of officials including Sen. Mark R. Warner, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance, D-Petersburg, and Mayor Brian Moore turned shovel fulls of dirt as part of a groundbreaking ceremony for the new library.

Crocker described the library as a symbol of faith. He said that when no one else believed the project would happen, he and those present did. He said that when no one else saw the need, he and those present at Monday’s event saw the need, and that when others said that the project wouldn’t be able to raise the money, he and those present said that it would happen.

“For those that said, ‘I’ll give when you break ground,'” Crocker said, pausing and cracking a wide smile to a round of applause.

When complete, the new $12.7 million library will be nearly four times that of the existing 14,000-square-foot main library that has served the community for more than 85 years. The current Phase I facility will be around 45,000 square feet and represents the majority of the initial concept with the exception of a large multipurpose meeting room. Phase II would add space for an auditorium.

Even as construction on Phase I – estimated to take 12 to 18 months – is taking place, fundraising will continue for the second phase of construction.

Monday however, the focus was on Phase I.

Moore said that there is perhaps no place so totally democratic as a library, quoting former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. He encouraged the crowd to do three things: visit the current library, come out to the site of the new library at least once a month and stand in the same spot and take pictures of the progres, and on those visits, take advantage of city businesses.

Warner said that he was glad to be back in Petersburg, “the community that will never give up.”

Warner said that libraries are changing but still represent a place where everyone is equal. The senator also committed to providing a contribution for the library foundation towards completion of the second phase of the library.

“You have invested in this library and that sends a message that education is important,” Scott said. Scott’s remarks were echoed by Dr. Manfred Psiorz, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals Inc.

Psiorez said that the company hires skilled, well-educated employees.

“We would like to see them coming from Petersburg,” Psiorez said, adding that he was personally pleased when he heard about the planned library. Psiorez also presented the library foundation with a check for $40,000, bringing the company’s total contribution to $100,000.

Boehringer Ingelheim wasn’t the only corporate citizen to make a donation Monday. Container First Services donated $20,000 and three citizens made a combined contribution of approximately $3,000.

But the library foundation didn’t just take in money Monday, it also gave two future patrons of the library gifts. Talajah Stith, a third-grade student at J.E.B. Elementary School, and Alessio Amato, a third-grade student at Saint Joseph Catholic School, each were presented Nook brand e-readers. Talajah and Alessio wrote essays about what they’re looking forward to with the new library.

“It will have new books,” Talajah said, reading from her essay. “I will have fun reading and visualizing as I’m reading.”

Alessio said that reading is the greatest thing that anyone can do “because you think and you gain knowledge.”

The Rev. Andrew J. White, capital campaign co-chair with Cindy Morgan, said that when the project began he described it in the words of Charles Dickens.

“It was the worst of times, it was the best of times,” White said. He said that the economy couldn’t have been worse to undertake such a project, but he added it was also a good time. “We live in Petersburg.”

White underscored the attitude of the city as being one to overcome the odds.

“They said it couldn’t be done,” White said. “But we did it. It’s not simply for today. It’s for tomorrow. We’re writing history today.”

White said that while some in the audience may never ever use the library, their children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren might.

Soon after, nine shovels each ceremoniously tossed a bit of dirt to signal the beginning of construction on the library.

Robert “Bob” Walker, chairman of the board for the Petersburg Library Foundation, said that construction should begin within about 30 days.

“Work is already being done on the site. We’re waiting on utilities to be moved,” Walker said.

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