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County breaks ground on Middletown library after nearly 15 years of planning

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

MIDDLETOWN -- One of Susan Kemer's earliest memories is walking to the local public library with her kindergarten class to check out books. As she got older, she began walking to it as a teenager.

When she moved to the MOT area, it was no surprise one of the first things she did was find the local library. She visited when it was in the Old Academy building in Odessa with her children and then went to it when it was at Middletown High School.

Now the president of the Friends of the Southern New Castle County Library, she’s a regular visitor at Appoquinimink Community Library off Broad Street. After years of waiting, she is finally getting to see a full, state-of-the-art library in her town.

“The library is the heart of this area, not because of the location but because it is as magical as other people have said," Kemer said. "I feel the vibrant energy that inspires the thirst for knowledge and is found by opening the doors to that place and discovering the treasures inside."

New Castle County broke ground on the Southern New Castle County Library in Middletown Aug. 27 at the corner of Main and Catherine streets.

Lt. Gov. Bethany-Hall Long, whose hometown is Middletown, said she has watched the county and state push for a new library in town for nearly 15 years and is excited to finally see the project come to fruition.

“[Libraries] have been a place that breaks down barriers. When you walk into a library, we are equal. There is equity and opportunity. It doesn’t matter our background, our gender, our race, we are equal.”

Sen. Stephanie Hansen, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long and County Councilman Dave Carter break ground on the Southern New Castle County Library in Middletown Aug. 27.

Although officials didn’t start plans for a library until 2007, New Castle County Councilman Dave Carter remembers discussions with residents wanting one long before then.

“We have been at this for a while, and it is a sweet, sweet moment for all of us. It has been a long-time coming,” he said. “No where in New Castle County is it more important for us at this [point in time to have a library.”

Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock said the project will be “the pride of Middletown” when it’s completed.

County Executive Matt Meyer said there is “a certain magic” that comes from people congregating at the Appoquinimink Community Library, and he wants this new $25 million library to do the same.

Sen. Stephanie Hansen said libraries have become more than just a place to borrow books but a place to access social services and job information.

“They have become trusted, neutral spaces,” she said. “They become information hubs.”

County Executive Matt Meyer, Sen. Stephanie Hansen and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long broke ground on the Southern New Castle County Library in Middletown Aug. 27.

Carter wants it to be a space where people can gather and learn about each other and their cultural differences.

Based on suggestions from public meetings, the library will most likely have large conference and small group meeting rooms. Rooms designed for technology-focused programs, such as media production, are in the plan.

Separate book sections for children and adults will be included.

The 27,000-square-foot library will sit at the northwest corner of East Main and Catherine streets. The plans show two entrances for the foot traffic coming from downtown West Main Street and another from the parking lot. The parking lot will have 106 spaces and 32 overflow spots on the new West Green Street Extension.

The property at 204 E. Main Street — west of the post office — has been vacant for years, and many MOT residents refer to  the location as “Middletown Stonehenge” because of the concrete sewer connectors and pipes dotting its landscape.

Marcus Henry, Department of Community Services general manager, said $650,000 has been raised through the community to help with funding. He said the goal is $750,000.

The county expects the library to be completed in early 2022.