By April M. Alford
6:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Contributing Writer Timesmedia
The library has experienced a lot of growth and improvement since I was a child. My mother signed me up for my first library card when I was four-years-old. Growing up I can remember trips to the library to load up on new books to read, or to do research for a paper. Fast forward to today, and there are so many programs and events put on by the library (not to mention all the technological advancements) that it has become a catch-all for the community.
Not only can you find a great summer read or research the latest information on the effects of homelessness in society, but you can also visit the Genealogy Center, sign up for GED classes, sign your teenager up for a Job Searching Skills seminar, take your child to story time and interact with some of the newest technology such as 3D printers; all while sipping on a green latte smoothie from Third Perk Coffeehouse and Wine Bar.
I was very excited when the levy to fund new library construction was passed by the voters of Montgomery County in 2012. I have always been a supporter of the local library, and I believe that the library is for all of us, and every citizen plays a part in the advancements that the library makes.
As talk began to brew about the fundraiser (The Main Event) that the Dayton Metro Library Foundation planned to put on, I became very excited. This fundraiser would be an opportunity to come together with other members of the community to see the new library before it opens, and to experience some great food and entertainment. Although the levy had passed, I know that it is necessary to continue a fundraising effort so that as technology advances and new programming becomes available, we can continue to improve the function of the local library.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced as I walked down the red carpet and into the doors of the new Main Library. The first thing that I saw was a beautiful piece of art that I later found out is called Fractal Rain and it was created by Terry Welker. This piece is described in the Main Event booklet as, “A large, kinetic sculpture of stainless steel wire and acrylic prisms…” I love the fact that the library will showcase artwork from local artists. As I moved through the library over the evening, I was delighted to see the amount of detail and hard work that has gone into creating a place that the citizens of Dayton can be proud of.
Over the course of the evening I realized that the volunteers (Team 17) thought of every detail when they were planning this event. The food, which was prepared by Chefs Jenn Disanto, Matthew Hayden, Anthony Head, Anne Kearney and Maria Walusis was nothing short of amazing! There were performances by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Black Box Improv Theater, Sierra Leone, the Femme Fatale Silk Aerialists and Dancers, the Soul Fire Tribe and Steffin Johnson (Pianist and former Stivers School for the Arts student), just to name a few. WYSO’s “Behind the Groove” host Basim Blunt was the DJ for the evening, and he had us dancing late into the night.
As I interacted with some of the attendees there was a resounding theme to what each had to say about the new library. Some stated how breathtaking it is, and that it reminds them of a museum. Many spoke of how open and inviting the space is, and how they cannot wait for the grand opening so that they can see the library in its entirety. I spoke with Dale Robinson, a 17-year-old student from Dayton Early College Academy (DECA). Dale was a volunteer host at the event working to complete some of his community service hours. Dale stated how excited he is to see the new space, and he is thrilled about all the new technology that will be housed in the new facility.
I spoke with three elected officials during the event about their thoughts on the new space and what it means for our community. County Commissioner Dan Foley spoke of his gratitude to the citizens of Dayton for stepping up and approving the levy when it was put on the ballot. He went on to say, “The ability to help the next three or four generations have a library to learn and advance is an awesome thing. Libraries are community places for people to come together, share, learn and grow.”
I asked City Commissioner Jeff Mims his impressions of the new library. He stated that, “It is a great situation for the city of Dayton, and the citizens of Dayton as a whole. It brings so much vitality to the entire city.” When asked if the new library reflects the diverse interests of the downtown community he replied, “I believe that it does. We increased the amount of local and minority contractors who worked on the library downtown. I worked with Tim Kambitsch [Executive Director of Dayton Metro Library] to make sure that we did a better job on that [hiring minorities] than we did in the past. From that perspective, it’s good. Every time you put additional dollars into citizens of Dayton, west Dayton, or other parts of Dayton, it’s more money for them to take care of themselves and their families. Also, the library is the type of place where learning goes on significantly, and there are so many venues and avenues that our citizens will have within the new library, and that’s from our young people to seniors. They will have so many opportunities for educational growth. It sends a signal. Every time we have something good happen in any part of Dayton it sends a signal to the community as a whole.”
City of Dayton School Board Member Hazel Rountree spoke about the importance of having a community library that serves the whole community. Her words sum up the role that every community place should serve. “It is my hope that the library will continue to be a place for those who are marginalized in our society, and not just the privileged. I hope that EVERY citizen will be welcome, and that their knowledge will continue to grow each time they walk through those doors. If this continues to be the case, then I believe that the library has served its purpose.”
I see the library as a community partner. A place where child development happens, where teenagers can learn life skills, a place where citizens can learn about the arts and so much more. I see the library as a place for citizens of the community to come together to explore the unknown, to interact and learn more about one another and to imagine a future that is better than the present. I believe this new library is a step in the right direction, and I hope that you all will continue to help it grow, and to bring the vision to life.