Charles County Library Director Emily Ferren was crying, but that was all right.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t have any tears, but believe me, these are tears of joy,” she told well-wishers at the grand opening of the Waldorf West library, which she said she had been pushing for since she was hired 16 years ago.
The new branch, near O’Donnell Lake, is the fourth in the county, but the 30,000-square-foot structure more than doubles the total library floor space in the county, she said.
“There is no greater tribute than to thank everyone who has contributed to this project,” Ferren said, but she became too emotional to deliver the final lines of her speech. Charles County commissioners President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) hugged her instead.
At least 100 people attended the ribbon-cutting Nov. 13, crowding into the back because there weren’t enough seats.
“I wanted to see what it was like. I plan to be using it,” Carrie Phillips of Waldorf said. “It’s got to be better” than the town’s other branch, P.D. Brown Memorial, she said. “The people over there are nice. I can find most books I wanted, but I expect to find a lot more authors here.”
Waldorf West houses 60,000 volumes, all brand-new, Ferren said.
He was still looking around, but Dennis Sheffield of Waldorf expected more from Waldorf West, seeing it as “unique [compared with] traditional libraries,” he said.
The atmosphere, at least in that first hour, was different, too.
“Now, my experience is going to the library is really quiet. That’s definitely not the case today,” he said, surrounded by excited, chattering people and the strains of a brass band.
Kelly saw the new facility as a project in education and social justice.
“It’s all about learning, education, making sure there’s an even playing field where everyone has access to information,” she said.
Kelly saw the project as an economic development, as well, because it “demonstrates very clearly that Charles County is a community where we do great things,” she said.
Del. Peter F. Murphy (D-Charles), representing the Southern Maryland legislative delegation, praised the library and praised Ferren for bringing it into being.
“This is not just a community library. This is and will become a community resource center for Charles County,” he said. “When I go to Annapolis, people say, ‘How do you do that in Charles County? How do you get these things?’ ”
Ferren deserved the credit for advocating for the project, he said.
Construction, including design, took about three years, Ferren said, and the cost was about $10 million. The opening was delayed from late summer “by funding, plain and simple,” but the day had finally arrived.
“I think the reason that makes it special, I see it as democracy in action. There’s all ages and genders, everybody enjoying it,” Ferren said as guests began exploring the stacks.