Rehoboth task force recommends similar services for current library

Next up – starting design process for new location, current site renovation
July 18, 2023

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach Elementary School
500 Stockley Street
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

The Rehoboth Beach Public Library Task Force was given the opportunity to discuss potential services at the downtown location during a recent meeting. To no great surprise, members would like to see services offered at the current library continue to be offered there as much as possible.

Library board members announced earlier this year that instead of doing a multimillion-dollar renovation on the current library on Rehoboth Avenue, they were planning to build a second location off Warrington Road, across from the new Beebe Healthcare Specialty Surgical Hospital, while also renovating the current library. Population growth in the library’s designated service area and a need for parking have been cited as the two main reasons for a second location.

In response to the announcement, a task force of interested individuals was formed and began meeting earlier this summer. The first three meetings were primarily information-gathering sessions. Task force members heard input offered by library staff from Rehoboth, Lewes, Sussex County and Hockessin about things to consider as design of both facilities gets underway.

The task force, which has roughly 20 members, held its fourth meeting July 12; that was the first time members got to actually begin listing the services they would like to see downtown. Split into three groups, members spent about 30 minutes brainstorming a list of services, and then each group presented their list. There was general agreement among all three tables that there should be study rooms, internet, programming for all ages, collections, copiers and other services that are already provided at the library.

Task force member Joe Wade presented for the second table. He acknowledged the needed services, but encouraged the people in charge of the design to think outside the box.

Many of the libraries up and down the state have similar styles, said Wade. Rehoboth has the opportunity to do something unique because it’s so close to the ocean, and the downtown site’s design should reflect that, he said, suggesting a large-scale aquarium and other ocean themes greeting visitors as they walk in.

There are so many programs that could be done related to the beach, said Wade, and visitors need to have an experience.

Library officials are working with architecture and engineering firm Becker Morgan Group to design the new building and renovate the old building. Architect Craig Williams has been at all the task force meetings, listening to the discussion and taking notes.

Following the task force presentations, Williams said the good thing about the meeting’s exercise was that it showed pretty much everyone is on the same page. If there’s a real desire to keep as many services as possible, the ideal design would be a big room with flexible space and the ability to meet service demands as needed, he said.

Having two libraries presents Rehoboth with a unique opportunity because it will allow for services at both to be adjusted, said Williams.

Library board Vice President Kay Wheatley said the board still doesn’t know if the downtown location will encompass one, two or all three lots the current library occupies. That will be determined based on service needs and population, she said.

Wheatley said people are going to have to be realistic about what can be done downtown. The library doesn’t want to renovate for use by 10,000 people, when it’s only servicing 5,000 people, she said.

Moving forward, it was unclear exactly when the task force would meet again. There had been discussion about a meeting July 26, but there was general consensus that it was time for Williams to get into the early stages of his design work. There’s an expectation that task force members will have a brief period to email any additional thoughts to Patricia Anderson, a consultant for Lewes-based Horizon Philanthropic Services who has been facilitating the task force discussions at all the meetings. Once those last comments have been compiled, Williams will get to work, and a future meeting date will be planned.

Library director resigns

Prior to the start of the meeting, Wheatley announced that library Director Rachel Wackett had resigned the day before the meeting for personal reasons. This is the library’s second director to step down in less than a year. Alison Miller, who had been director since October 2015, accepted a position with the Sussex County Library Department in December. Wackett had been named director in February.

Wheatley said Lauren McCauley, program librarian, will serve as acting director for the time being.

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