News & Events

Community gathers for grand opening of Petersburg library

City residents take their first step through the doors of the new Petersburg Public Library located at 201 W. Washington St. Patrons entering the library stand over a mosaic that represents the city.

City residents take their first step through the doors of the new Petersburg Public Library located at 201 W. Washington St. Patrons entering the library stand over a mosaic that represents the city.

PETERSBURG – A dream owned by the community that began 10 years ago is now a reality in Petersburg. City residents, as well as state and local officials, gathered for the grand opening Saturday of the Petersburg Public Library. After the opening ceremony, hundreds of city residents entered the glass doors of the state-of-the-art $12.7 million library.

Much of the funding for the 45,000-square-foot building located at 201 W. Washington St. was made possible by The Capital Campaign of the Petersburg Library Foundation. Contributions from city residents were large and small, some spared the change in the their pockets for funding drives, others contributed thousands.

Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, said that the new library was made possible by these community efforts.

“Everyone can say this is our library, it belongs to all of us,” Dance said.

Wayne Crocker, director of the Petersburg Public Library System, said that helping to bring the community’s dream to life was worthwhile but hard.

“If I can help some child read on grade level or any adult read on any level … then any contribution I had to making this library happen will not be in vain,” Crocker said.

Robert “Bob” Walker, head of the Petersburg Library Foundation, said that the library would offer many services, including children and adult literacy initiatives.

“In truth, this is an opportunity builder,” he said. “We have so many things for the community to use,” he said.

Mayor Brian Moore said building the library is just the first step toward doing more for the community.

“As they say in Petersburg, the siege is over; the offensive has begun,” he said.

City residents made use of the library’s computers, children’s activities, cafe and of course, the books during the library’s grand opening. Multiple residents at a time made their way to the circulation desk to sign up for library cards.

Danielle Johnson, a regular patron of the previous William R. McKenney Branch library, brought her son Denzel Johnson, 6.

“We always go to the library,” she said. “We have been looking forward to it.”

Pam Hairston brought her 5-year-old granddaughter Iyahe Hairston who said that she loves to read.

“It’s beautiful and it’s larger,” Pam Hairston said. “It has a lot to offer everyone of all ages.”

– Leah Small may be reached at 722-5172 or

Move to the new library begins

The Petersburg Public Library on South Sycamore Street closed Monday so staff and contractors can complete the move to the new library on West Washington Street.

The Petersburg Public Library on South Sycamore Street closed Monday so staff and contractors can complete the move to the new library on West Washington Street.

PETERSBURG – The first batch of books has been placed on the shelves of the new Petersburg Public Library in a move that started Monday.

The William R. McKenney Branch on South Sycamore Street closed Monday as contractors moved materials to the new $12.7 million library at 201 W. Washington St. The new library will open April 26, leaving Petersburg residents without a library for nearly two weeks.

Wayne Crocker, director of the Petersburg Public Library, said city residents will be happy with the services offered by the new library.

The new 45,000-square-foot library will feature about 3,000 square feet for children’s programming, 60 computers for public use, a café and a gift shop.

Space will also be provided for community outreach programs, such as the Healthy Living and Learning Center and the READ Center for adult literacy.

While the move takes place, patrons can return materials in the drop box located on the outside of the library. The library is waiving fines of overdue materials this month.

Crocker said about 80,000 materials will be moved. Catalogued materials will be moved by Kloke, a company that specializes in office and library relocation.

The movers are working to take books off of the shelves in the correct order so they can be placed correctly on the new library shelves.

Crocker said the move itself would take four to five days and it would take another few days for library staff to organize the shelves.

The technology needed to run a state of the art library is currently being installed.

The main upgrades include new servers, a phone system and Radio Frequency ID.

RFID is an electronic alarm system that will be installed in all of the books and at the front door of the library. The system will keep books that have not yet been checked out from leaving the building.

Crocker said RFID would be an important part of the new library’s self check-out system.

“We think it will be very efficient for staff and patrons as well,” Crocker said.

Patrons of the new library will see library events and news displayed on large monitors in the building. More computer work stations will be available and there will be an electronic computer reservation system.

The April 26 grand opening has been in the making for 10 years.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. will include remarks from city and state officials. Tours of the building will be given, and there will be activities for children and free samples from the library café.

The Petersburg Public Library System has been headquartered at the William R. McKenney Branch at 137 S. Sycamore St. since 1924.

Crocker called the move bittersweet.

“I sort of have mixed emotions. I have been involved with this building for a long time,” he said. “People who grew up in Petersburg grew up coming to this library.”

Published: April 15, 2014

A final push for Petersburg’s new library

Progress-Index by Leah Small (Staff Writer)

imagePETERSBURG – The needle has moved to a little under $200,000 in the final push to raise money for the construction of the new Petersburg Public Library. So far, the Petersburg Library Foundation has raised about $12.5 million for the roughly $12.7 million project according to Bob Walker, president of the library’s foundation.

Walker said that he expects the library to open in April.

He added that once the library opens, the multifunctional gathering space will enrich the city.

“It’s about the community. It’s more than just a place to put books, it’s going to be a learning center,” Walker said.

As part of it’s community focus, the new library features about three times more space devoted to children’s programs on its lower level than the current 1,000 square feet in the William R. McKenney central branch. The current space in the central branch is also shared with other library group programs.

A cafe and gift shop will be located downstairs in the new library. Community outreach programs such as the READ Center will have dedicated classroom and study spaces upstairs. The nonprofit focuses on promoting adult literacy. There will be 60 computers designated for public use. The William R. McKenney branch only had 25, which forced many patrons to wait in line.

Walker also said that the library was built to last, with rooms that can be converted for different purposes.

“It’s a very flexible building, 30 years from now things will change, so it’s built to last 50 years,” Walker said.

But construction of the building has had its challenges.

In summer 2013, library officials said they expected the new building open in fall 2013. Wayne Crocker, the city’s library director, said that a high number of rainy days stalled construction. In December 2013, the Petersburg Library Foundation Fund Development Officer Cheryl Collins said the new facility was scheduled for a late February 2014 opening. Now, Walker said that the library is expected to open in April of this year.

Walker added that the opening has been moved because the difficulty of finding funds, and weather delays due to snow and ice.

He also said that coming across and removing older items – such as bottles and artifacts – from previous uses of the site have also slowed construction.

But Walker said that money was the biggest factor in the delays and that original plans for the building have been changed because of funding.

The new library will no longer feature an archive room in the basement, or a fountain. Plans for a 300-seat multipurpose room have also been put on hold, but Walker said that space is available for the multipurpose room if it’s needed after the library opens.

The project’s two largest donors have been the city, with a more than $5 million investment, and the Cameron Foundation with a $2.7 million donation.

But Walker said that fundraising has also been a grass roots effort.

“The community has really been a big supporter of this thing, from children raising pennies, to churches and sororities,” Walker said.

Library Rising in the Heart of the Tri-Cities (Jan 2014 issue of Reaching new heights)


New Library Construction Site Tour









Website Design By