Home in Henderson tours new library

The central part of the library as seen from the second floor.

On January 5, Home in Henderson was given a tour of the new H. Leslie Perry Library, currently under construction between Winder and Breckenridge Streets in the city’s Embassy Square. When completed, the new library will be 40,000 square feet on two floors.

To begin the tour, we met Kathy Powell, the executive director of the Embassy Foundation, at the Embassy Square offices on 112 Winder St. Walking, we approached the new library from the east and were immediately confronted with the eastern wall of the gallery. Powell told us that the Foundation would like to have movies shown against that wall.

Entering the gallery, we were immersed in a large, two-story open space of 5,000 square feet. The walls of the gallery have large panels suitable for murals for which the Foundation is working. The gallery will serve as a foyer for both the library and the performance hall, when and if the performance hall aspect of the project is erected. Current plans call for rotating local and national artwork exhibits. The gallery will also serve as a social space.

Powell informed Home in Henderson that there is a couple who wishes to be married in the gallery when it is completed. When we asked her how much it would cost to rent the space for an event such as a marriage and/or reception, she informed us that the price was still being worked out, and that it would depend on who provides items such as tables and chairs, catering, and so forth.

Powell informed us that three chandeliers would be part of the gallery appointments.

Gallery wall

Walking up the double staircase in the gallery, we were told that the building is designed with “educational points” in various areas. From the viewing area at the top of the staircase, one will, upon completion of the project, be able to view a map of the world which will be laid into the floor below.

Construction of that map was to have begun that very evening. There was some discussion about how Antartica would be represented on the map, the problem being that when that continent is represented on a flat map, it resembles a long, thin strip of land.

Moving back down the staircase, we entered the main floor of the library proper. This part of the library will be where the book check-out is located, as well as kiosks with books and touch-screen computers for academic subjects such as mathematics, science, and literature. These kiosks will be referenced against the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for those subject areas, thus providing a link between the library and the public schools.

Home in Henderson was informed by Powell that there is a conversation going on about a bus from the schools to the library on different days of the week.

At that point in the tour, Powell and Home in Henderson were joined by Sam Watkins, the chair of the Embassy Square Foundation Executive Committee of which Powell is also a member.

From the main circulation area, we were led to the conference room. The conference room will be accessable from the library and the gallery and will accommodate up to 100 people. It was stated that there had been talk of Corporate Express having its meetings in that space.

It is anticipated that both the gallery and conference rooms will be a revenue stream for the library as well as a coffee shop that will be located in the structure. We were informed that the Foundation is currently looking for a vendor to provide that service.

While touring the public meeting rooms, Watkins stated that the purpose of the library is to rejuvenate the community, to market the community and to get jobs.

“We forget how much it costs not to fix a problem,” he said.

Watkins told Home in Henderson about a visit to the new library with state treasurer Richard Moore, a Vance County native. According to Watkins, Moore believes that the Embassy Square Project will be an economic opportunity.

“I think we’re doing the right thing,” Watkins stated.

From the conference room we were led to the board room. The board room drew some controversy recently when the The Daily Dispatch reported that the conference table was projected to cost $12,155. When Home in Henderson asked Powell and Watkins about a similar table in the Henderson Police Department’s meeting room, it was stated that the cost of that table was comparable.

From the meeting rooms we were led to the outside enclosed terrace that faces Chestnut Street. We were informed that the terrace will have wireless internet service, as will the rest of the library, and that the wireless service will be sent to the police department as well. North Carolina On-Line (NCOL) will provide internet service for the library.

Next to the exit to the terrace is the children’s storytelling area, a recessed semi-circle in the floor with bleachers that will be carpeted.

Before going up to the second floor, the central balcony area was pointed out to us. Plans for the future include several flat-screen televisions to hang along the wall with data attachments for PowerPoint presentations.

On the second floor, future patrons will find the main stacks of the library as well as a computer laboratory that has been designated for eight work stations. Home in Henderson was informed that the library could become a Vance-Granville Community College satellite campus. We were also told that reading and financial literacy classes would be held there as well.

From the northern face of the building, we looked out on the Henderson Police Department. We were told that the land in front of the police department could be graded off for outdoor sports.

Watkins stated that Moore had expressed the opinion that the Embassy Square Project has the potential to pull in retail around the area of the project.

Powell informed us that the architecture of the project reflects the architecture of the clock tower, the most recognizable and unique of Henderson’s buildings and an icon for the city.

Gallery exit at Breckenridge

Watkins stated that an enormous amount of planning has gone into the Embassy Square project. He called it the “greatest partnership I’ve ever seen.”

Referring to the ongoing debate over the operating budget of the new library, Watkins told Home in Henderson that things are tight for a number of reasons, not necessarily due to poor planning. He informed us that the city has had the financial data on the library’s operation since Chick Young was mayor. For Watkins, the library represents a $7 million facility that taxpayers did not have to pay for. Powell added that the library represents a partnership between government, business, and people and can serve as a common ground for everybody.

Watkins said that the need to attract medical and biotechnical industries can’t be fulfilled without the type of facility that the library represents.

The second floor of the library also contains a History and Geneology Room. The library contains extensive information on Henderson genealogy and subscribes to an on-line genealogy service for those who are interested in the subject. Near that room are private tutorial rooms which teachers will be able to reserve for a variety of purposes.

One of the services for children that is under consideration is an overnight “lock-in” for Henderson teens.

The tour ended outside of the library on Breckenridge Street across from the police department where a brick-paved traffic circle has recently been completed and opened to through traffic.