News & Events

Donation to new library a fitting legacy for three sisters and an investment in city

Progress-Index – Published March 24, 2013

To the Editor:

Ann Lyons died last August. She and her late sisters, Maury Leigh Lyons and Julia Lyons, spent their adult lives teaching children in the Petersburg schools.

When Ann died, we decided to give $75,000 from her estate to the Petersburg Library Foundation, in order to name the Cafe in the new library in memory of all three of them. The library is one of Petersburg’s most important educational institutions, and it’s close to our hearts because of long personal association with libraries and the library profession.

Also, the “Lyons girls” were very sociable, as we were constantly reminded whenever we went out in public with any of them. It wouldn’t be long before someone would come over to say, “Miss Lyons, you probably don’t remember me, but you taught me in …” whatever grade, and that would lead to a long conversation in which the Lyonses would catch up on every detail of what that former student had done since then. We think the Cafe, where people will gather to socialize, would be the Lyonses’ favorite part of the new library.

We live in Wooster, Ohio, a city about half the size of Petersburg. Wooster and Petersburg have a lot in common. Both were manufacturing centers that saw major industries move away, taking both jobs and corporate civic engagement with them. Like many American cities, both lost population downtown, as more people moved out to the country and started patronizing new shopping centers and malls. But Wooster saw the problem coming early and seized the opportunity to reverse the deterioration. The big downtown department stores closed, but local developers renovated the properties for smaller specialty shops at street level, with loft apartments above. New locally-owned and operated restaurants opened, offering both quality and variety.

But the biggest boost to downtown development came from a new public library, anchoring the business district and linking with the nearby Arts Center, created several years before in a former school building. Our leading citizens got out their checkbooks, and the voters approved a bond issue, to build the new library, because they knew it would be good for the community and absolutely essential to downtown revitalization.

With Petersburg’s redevelopment of Old Towne, renovation of its older residences, and opening of outstanding new downtown eateries, this beautiful and historic city center is on the same track. With the conversion of the old high school into the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School and the construction nearby of the new public library, the anchors for a sustained downtown renaissance are nearly complete. The library will be so much more than books and computers, providing space for exhibits, learning events, community meetings, educational activities, and opportunities to socialize for citizens of different ages, ethnicities, and economic levels.

Because of dedicated local leadership, something good is already happening in downtown Petersburg, and we’re excited to be a small part of it. The Lyons family used to live downtown. They were invested in it, literally. Their father was a city councilman and businessman. Now they will be part of its redevelopment through the Lyons Cafe in the new library.

So far, library supporters have given $10,331,523 for the new building, with a little over $2.4 million to go. We’re reasonably sure there are people in Petersburg who can make up that difference easily, but who haven’t come forward yet. We understand the discouragement that older residents of the city may feel when they remember how downtown Petersburg used to look.

But we also know from our experience in Ohio that positive change is happening here in Petersburg now, and that the Public Library is an absolutely essential part of it. We want you to share our faith in Petersburg’s future. Surely, two Yankees from Ohio can’t believe in Petersburg more than you do! So please, if you’re able, write out a check to “Petersburg Library Foundation,” and put down a number with a lot of zeroes after it.

Mary Lyons Temple Hickey

Damon Douglas Hickey

Wooster, Ohio

Library group still trying to raise needed funds for new Petersburg library

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DISPATCH Dale White (left) and Eddy Cabala, with East Coast Interiors, work on the new Petersburg library at Washington and Market streets. The library is expected to be completed around Christmas. The Petersburg Library Foundation still needs to raise $2.4 million for the project.

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 12:00 am

BY LOUIS LLOVIO Richmond Times-Dispatch

With construction on a new Petersburg library under way and expected to be completed around Christmas, the foundation leading the charge is still short on money.

“We’re 20 percent away from filling our goal,” Cheryl L. Collins, fund development officer for the Petersburg Library Foundation, said as she toured the construction site Tuesday ahead of a meeting with a potential donor.

Collins said the foundation has raised $10.3 million but needs an additional $2.4 million to complete construction and stock the library.

The foundation is actively soliciting funds from individual donors, businesses and other groups to help come up with what’s needed.

It is also in the process of applying for New Markets tax credits to help fill the gap. The credits were approved by Congress in 2000 to help with projects in low-income communities.

“There’s nothing, at this point, that looks like it (could) slow us down as far as construction is concerned,” said Robert C. Walker, chairman of the foundation’s board and president of Roslyn Farm Corp.

While the city of Petersburg has committed $5 million, the funding for the library is coming directly through the foundation, which was created in 2002.

The 56,000-square-foot library is being built at Washington and Market streets in the city’s historic district. When completed, it will replace the city’s three existing branches.

The new library will have space for children’s programs, computer banks and community meetings. There will be dedicated areas for teens and children, as well as a reading room, café, drive-thru and 300-seat auditorium.

And, of course, there will be room for books.

Becky Hammond, president of WhizBang Promotions in Dinwiddie County and a former Petersburg resident, toured the site Tuesday.

She was impressed with the project, particularly with what it could do to help young people in Petersburg who, she said, lack access to educational resources.

“That’s our workforce that’s growing up there,” Hammond said.

As for making a donation, Hammond said Wednesday that she has decided to give but is not sure how much.

The new library building is just the first phase of the foundation’s project. The organization hopes to build a multipurpose conference center that will go on a piece of property adjacent to the library.

Fundraising for that will begin later.

Fund development officer for Petersburg Library Foundation speaks to Rotary Club on Feb. 21

PETERSBURG – Cheryl L. Collins, fund development officer with the Petersburg Library Foundation, spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Petersburg on Feb. 21. She was introduced by Cindy Morgan, publisher of The Progress-Index.

Collins shared how the campaign has grown over the last four years from 24 donors to more than 840 donors. Gifts range from $1 up to the City of Petersburg’s $5 million dollar commitment toward the construction of the new library at the intersection of North Market and West Washington streets.

The Capitol Campaign Cabinet members have raised a total of $10,312,686, which is 80 percent of goal toward the total $12,700,000 campaign goal.

Collins stressed the need for the organization to identify the last 20 percent of the campaign goal and said, by visiting www.petersburglibraryfoundation.org , real-time construction progress may be viewed via the webcam. Physical construction on the new library began in July 2012, though site work and utilities work had already been under way.

Collins also shared details about the commemorative brick campaign and how to make a pledge to support the construction of the new Petersburg Public Library. Commemorative bricks and donations can be made online via the organization’s website.

The public is invited to attend Rotary meetings every Thursday at the Country Club of Petersburg. Lunch begins at noon followed by the meeting at 12:30.

Progress-Index – Published: March 22, 2013

Taking a tour of library construction

Bob Walker (pictured left) and Fred White (pictured right) take donors Mary Temple Hickey and Damon Douglas Hickey (center) on a construction site tour.

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