New Lawrence library’s grand opening dazzles eager readers

If You Go

The Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 am to 7 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The energy was electric downtown Saturday morning as the last book passed from the Lawrence Public Library’s temporary location at 700 New Hampshire St. to it’s new home at 707 Vermont St.

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak was handed down a four-block-long line of eager readers ready to “be a part of history,” as 8-year-old New York Elementary third-grader Anadora Seiff said.

When the book reached its destination, more than 700 community members were congregated outside of the library to welcome it home. As it was passed up the stairs and to the building, the giant red ribbons over the new library were cut and the doors opened to the public for the first time.

Several hundred Lawrencians then barged through the doors, many with their mouths dropping in awe over the new space.

Eudora Middle School teacher Bob Sailler said, as an English teacher, the sight of such delight over books was reassuring.

“Does a heart good to see this many people flood into a library,” Sailler said.

The library’s grand opening had a full schedule of events, from “celebrity storytime” with Big Jay to a “library luau” beach party with treats, crafts, games and music.

Still, the favorite activity for some attendees was sifting through the newly stocked bookshelves and reading in chairs next to the sprawling windows throughout the building.

Lawrence Resident Bill Vermooten was one such attendee and already had his nose in a novel just a half hour after the library opened.

“I loved the old library, and this one looked like it was going to be interesting,” Vermooten said. “I’ll have to get used to the new one, but this is very nice.”

Part of the draw for some was the “interesting” look of the library. Declan Patrick, 8, said he was excited about the new library so he could read his favorite book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney, and the new design of the building.

“When I grow up I want to be an architect, and it has a lot of architecture,” Patrick said. “It’s not just a square and a roof, it has a lot of windows, and it’s really big.”

With its modern appeal and broad expansion of 20,000 square feet, the building was designed to foster a love of novels, Lawrence Public Library employee Mary Lynn Stuart said. A children’s room and “teen zone” are tucked away to encourage an interest in books for Lawrence residents at a young age.

“This was a really good use of money and an old building. It’s magical,” Stuart said. “The kids are happy and excited. It’s been proven children’s learning development must go though books, so naturally the staff wanted to design a place to accommodate that.”

The rest of the library includes everything from a recording studio and a performance auditorium to a coffee shop and conference rooms.

In the teen zone, soon-to-be Lawrence High School freshman Jalen Atkinson, 14, played a video game on an Xbox gaming system with friend Ryan Snyder, also 14. Atkinson said when he first came to the library, he was blown away — and that the fancy new features will bring him back again.

“I was amazed when I saw it,” Atkinson said. “I’m probably going to come to the library a lot more now.”

The festivities continued throughout Saturday with the library luau lasting from 2 to 4 p.m., a dinner and a movie with downtown restaurants and live music set for 7 p.m. and a showing of “Ghostbusters Begins” at 9 p.m on the library lawn.