Following five meetings over a two-month period, the 21-member volunteer task force helping to map the future of local library services has adiourned to allow time for initial architectural renderings to be developed.
The task force focused its initial attention on the programs and services believed to be most needed and desired at a downtown location, to complement a larger library facility to be built on Warrington Road west of Route 1 north of Rehoboth.
"It's an exciting time for the Rehoboth Beach community to have the existing public library renovated and a new library built at Warrington Road to reach many more neighborhoods. The board and task force want both libraries to be the very best so they can attract new visitors and provide services for al ages," said Joe Wade, a task force member representing the area of Henlopen Acres.
Craig Williams, an architect from Becker Morgan, the firm hired to design both facilities, attended the task force meetings and will now translate its recommendations, following review by the library board of directors, into new floor plans for the existing Rehoboth Avenue building. The drawings are expected to reflect new priorities identified by the task force, such as a large, comfortable gathering room for visitors, a number of small private workspaces, and a multi-use space. During its process, the task force heard from several state, county and regional library colleagues who provided advice and shared experience regarding new services patrons are requesting. The task force also learned of changes in the size and demographics of populations to be served on both sides of Route 1, including downtown Rehoboth Beach and the rapidly growing new communities up to six miles west of Route 1. Both constituencies are part of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library service area.
"It is our responsibility to serve our residents and visitors within the Rehoboth Beach Library District. We are planning a renovation of our downtown facility to better provide services and programs for the residents, both year-round and second home, and visitors to the immediate area, and to build a new facility to better accommodate residents west of Route 1. Community surveys showed traffic and parking were major concerns. Our plan will address these problems and be able to serve everyone,” said Kay Wheatley, library board president.
Williams will present his initial recommendations to the library board and task force in late September or early October, after which meetings will be held to enable broader public review and input before final drawings are developed. The task force will reconvene in October to begin discussions regarding programs and services at the Warrington Road location.
According to Wheatley, the library has much of the funding in hand to begin renovations at the downtown location, hopefully by early 2024. A fundraising campaign will be launched later to raise the 50% community share of any additional capital costs required downtown and to build at Warrington Road. She said task force members represent the entire library service area and have provided an enormous amount of enthusiasm, energy, thought and feedback.
Linda Tune, representing the Lodge at Truitt Homestead, said, "When like-minded people gather together, progress can be made. I am looking forward to seeing the ideas that the task force committee brainstormed come to fruition at the downtown Rehoboth Beach Library. The future looks exciting with the addition of the Warrington Road branch. Both locations will provide a plethora of meeting rooms, books, media, print and activities. Libraries are an essential extension of the community where people can gather to learn, to read, and communicate.”