Renovation almost complete for Vidalia library

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 3:46 PM EST
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VIDALIA, Ga. (WTOC) - A $4 million renovation is underway at the Ohoopee Regional Library System’s Vidalia location.

This library has been here since the 60s and the last time it was renovated was in the 90s. Staff members say everything is new except the bricks and steel beams holding it up.

“Even when it was in disrepair, and everything was so old, and the roof was leaking, and the carpet was awful they still loved it and I was like ‘ya’ll kind of deserve a little bit better,’” Ohoopee Reginal Library System director, Cameron Asbell said.

Even though this old library was a sanctuary space for some, staff says many people didn’t necessarily feel that way.

“They kind of had a bad view of the library,” Asbell said.

Asbell says she had a big job to do when she became director in 2016.

“We just had to change peoples’ perception of the library,” Asbell said.

Asbell says she and the library board needed to show people that they were willing to put in work to turn this old and dark library around. One of the first people they went to was State Senator Blake Tillery.

“He told Cameron, ‘come up with the plans for a 21st century library,’” Vidalia-Toombs County Library Board member Howard Holman said.

And that’s what they did. Holman says the state gave them $3 million for renovations and with restored confidence from the community, they raised about $800,000 locally.

The biggest donors are the ones who the library is now named after, Dr. Mark and Tonya Spivey. This support means so much.

“They were given an opportunity to participate. They could’ve said ‘no we’re not interested in supporting the library,’” Holman said.

The new space is equipped with about 80,000 books and things like the Ladson Genealogy Library, a teen room, a community room, a teaching kitchen, study rooms with smartboards, and a Spark Lab for weekly kids’ STEM programming.

“Every week we have slime making and they build little robots, and they do all kinds of stuff. This space gives us a chance to have it open every afternoon instead of once a week,” Asbell said.

Asbell and Holman say a library brings so much value to the community.

“We usually checked out about 48,000-49,000 books a year. 20,000 people a year to come in to use the computers,” Asbell said.

And it was a constant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When those security offices were shut down and DFCS, we were here and open helping people keep their benefits and kind of keep things moving,” Asbell said.

Asbell says there’s so much pent-up excitement about this project and she hopes that same excitement continues when it’s done.

“I hope they continue to support it. I hope they don’t forget about it in a few years and it kind of falls in decline,” Asbell said.

This project wasn’t even supposed to get started until next year, so they’re way ahead of schedule with construction expected to be done in just two weeks.

In March, there will be a soft opening for the public and then on April 13, they will have their grand opening.