Community rallies to expand library in Middleburg

March 7, 2013

Civic leaders and library boosters helped break ground Feb. 21 on a construction project that will double the size of the Middleburg Library.

Unlike capital projects for Loudoun County’s other public library branches, expansion of the Middleburg facility will be paid for entirely with money raised through a grass-roots community fundraising campaign.

At about 2,100 square feet, the Middleburg Library is the smallest of the county’s eight branches. By comparison, the Gum Spring Library in Stone Ridge, which opened Feb. 23, is 40,000 square feet.

Most of the current library space will be used for children’s books and services, branch manager Sheila Whetzel said. The new space will house the adult collection and will include computer space, a meeting room, a teen room and a quiet-study room, she said.

Advisory board members, who had wanted for years to increase programming and services at the library, realized there was no way to do so unless the facility was expanded, said Denis Cotter, president of the Middleburg Library Advisory Board.

Although the library expansion was included in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program in the 1990s, it had “slipped off” the list of projects during an economic downturn and never got back on, he said.

“For a project to make it onto [the Capital Improvement Program], there are certain formulas that have to be satisfied,” Cotter said. “The county could not cost-justify the expansion based on the number of people in the Middleburg area.”

After waiting “almost 20 years for the county to build the expansion . . . we decided, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, to be the change we wanted to see in the world,” Cotter said. After developing a strategic plan in 2010, the advisory board decided to launch a grass-roots campaign to raise $775,000 for the expansion.

Advisory board member Mike Morency, a leader of the fundraising campaign, said that the 15-month effort had raised all but $38,000 of the $775,000 needed.

“We had 270 donors who contributed anywhere from $5 to $40,000,” Morency said. “It has been gratifying, the tremendous number of contributors we have had for this community project, and having broad-based community support.” He said that “a very large number of donors” live in nearby Fauquier County.

With the fundraising campaign closing in on its goal, the county Board of Supervisors on Feb. 20 authorized the beginning of construction.

The next morning, a crowd of library supporters and civic leaders gathered on the library’s lawn for a chilly ceremonial groundbreaking, before moving indoors for coffee and cookies.

“This is my second groundbreaking here,” Whetzel said, pointing out that she has served as the Middleburg branch manager since October 1988, before it was opened to the public.

She said she expects the construction project, scheduled for completion in the fall, to cause minimal disruption to library operations, because much of the work will be done early in the morning. She said the library will probably have to close for a few weeks when the exterior wall is taken down.

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