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VOL. 126 | NO. 120 | Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reading Celebration

Community celebrates Central Library’s 10th anniversary

By Aisling Maki

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The Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library Saturday celebrated its 10th anniversary with a family-friendly blowout bash featuring artistic performances and words of support and encouragement from community leaders.

The Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library celebrated its 10th anniversary over the weekend. The library provides multiple reading spots including this exterior walkway.

(Photo: Trey Clark)

Performances by the New Ballet Ensemble and Stax Music Academy, live music from the RAFE band, and appearances by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Memphis City Council chairman Myron Lowery, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, and University of Memphis men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner highlighted the event.

“This is not simply a birthday party for a building; this is a birthday party for a place that can take you all around the world, and you don’t have to buy a ticket at all,” said Wharton, addressing the many young children in attendance.

The celebration, hosted by V101 Radio personality Stan Bell, also featured Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of “The Blind Side” fame, honorary chairs of the library’s 10th anniversary activities.

“We’re honored to be a part of this,” Leigh Anne Tuohy said. “The staff is amazing. It’s a beautiful facility; we are blessed to have it in the city of Memphis. I hope we all take care of it, preserve it and use it.”

The facility’s actual 10th anniversary is Nov. 10, but library officials decided to hold the celebration in June in an effort to draw attention to the library’s Summer Reading program and encourage attendance during summer vacation.

About 3 million people annually visit the Memphis Library and Information Center’s anchor facility at 3030 Poplar Ave. The system includes 18 branches throughout the city and county.

Prior to the building’s opening, the central library was housed in a facility half its current size at 1850 Peabody Ave. in Midtown, where parking and collection space posed problems.

The Grand Lobby sculpture artwork includes work by light veil artist Ed Carpenter of Portland, Ore.

(Photo: Trey Clark)

Named for civil rights leader Benjamin L. Hooks, who died last year, the five-floor, 330,000-square-foot central library’s 2010 operating budget totaled more than $16.6 million.

The facility maintains a collection of nearly 770,000 books, magazine, videos, CDs and other materials, 247 public computer stations, study and meeting rooms, wireless Internet access and a variety of programming for children, teens and adults.

The library, designed by Memphis architects Looney Ricks Kiss and Boston architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch, also features public art space and raised flooring for the flexible adaptation of future technologies.

The Central Library also houses and operates WYPL 89.3 and TV Channel 18, which provide news, public service and community information programs.

The library is also preparing to launch a self-checkout pilot and a laptop program, funded by government stimulus money. The hope is to increase access to employment and career information and accurate health information.

“We’ll actually have laptops for checkout at every single one of our locations, so we’ll have about 10 at each location and we’ll have mobile computer labs,” Memphis Library director Keenon McCloy said.

Coinciding with the library’s 10th anniversary is the 10-for-Ten Campaign, a $500,000 fundraising effort designed by the Memphis Library Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to solicit, steward and dispense private support for the Memphis Library & Information Center.

Money raised through the campaign will be used to enhance collections, upgrade technology offerings and improve the overall library experience for community members who rely on the system and its resources.

Funds raised for the library will center on 10 key, high-impact areas: enhancing adult collections; enhancing children and young adult collections; adding early literacy computer stations for the children’s department; expanding the e-book collection; establishing a language learning program; creating a teen center; enhancing signage; upgrading the children’s courtyard; upgrading WYPL radio and TV technology; and upgrading digital projects that include Memphis history and music.

“The Memphis Library & Information Center is a cornerstone of this community and a key resource for educating and connecting Memphians from all walks of life,” said Suki Carson, chair of the Memphis Library Foundation. “We’re proud of the work the Memphis Library Foundation has done to raise support for and awareness of the important role that the Memphis Public Library & Information Center plays in the ongoing vitality of our city.”

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