FOLEY, Ala. (WKRG) — Designers are already working on plans for a new $20 million library in Foley, which city leaders say will provided needed services and an economic boost for the area. The goal is to build a library twice the size of the current facility, and some of the funding for the project is already secured.
But Foley will need to find an additional $18 million to pay for it. The first $2 million in funding is federal money included in the federal budget. Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich thanked Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-1) and the Alabama delegation for securing those funds.
“That helped a lot,” Hellmich said in a news release from the city. “We appreciate Congressman Carl and the delegation’s work on this. If we can get money for this, it allows us to leverage that money and move forward. We’re going to spend $20 million on the library so we’ve got a good start.”
That $20 million will pay for a new, 40,000 square foot Foley Public Library, built on city property south of the Foley Post Office, near the dog park. Hellmich said Foley needs the larger facility.
“We’ve been in and now since 2006, and we’ve pretty well maxed that library out,” Hellmich said. “We knew we had a choice. We can build a new library. We could let it stay maxed out there and forget about it. We could add on where we were, but we’ve already added on that building once.”
A library is more than a collection of books. They also provide critical community services.
“Our libraries are not just book repositories where you go in and a librarian goes and finds a book for you. They are community-programs and we recognized that we needed space for community programs, like the Literacy Council, which does tremendous work assisting our folks in filling the gaps of where education does not. So, for these community based programs, we need additional space.”
Carl said the investment in a new Foley Public Library will drive education and economic benefits for Baldwin County.
“I’m thrilled to secure funding for the Foley Public Library to create a community educational center for resume building, job-training classes, and a new literacy program,” Carl said. “I look forward to this space being enjoyed by so many folks in Baldwin County for years to come.”
Library Director John Jackson said the plan is to build a library that meets Foley’s needs for years to come.
“Our idea is to build a structure that is going to be flexible enough to where, say in 20 years, after libraries continue to evolve, we’re still relevant, because we’re putting money into a structure,” Jackson said. “We want it to be functional and relevant for a long, long time. So we need to plan on the future of libraries.”
The role libraries play has changed, Jackson said, and a new library will make more room for literacy classes, computer instruction, meeting spaces, resume preparation services, and more. Staff also plan to expand summer reading and English as a second language programs.
“We want to do more of that as we get to the new building,” Jackson said. “We want to do more educational components. One of the big things we want to do is to incorporate a STEAM or a STEM classroom for science and technology and math and engineering, where those types of projects can be taught.”
With designing underway, Jackson said the plan is to build the new library in 2023 and open it in 2025. But right now, Jackson said, planners are working with residents to learn what the public wants from the new library.
“We want folks to come tell us what you want to see, what would bring you in and keep you coming back,” Jackson said. “We want to be more of a hub of the community. We think we’re the center of the community now but we want to expand that. We want to enhance it.”
Hellmich said the vision includes rooftop outdoor space.
“It has two or three stories and then one portion of the building is one story,” Hellmich said. “On top of that porch and the exterior, we were hoping to have a really unique outside space on that roof. It would be overlooking the Dog Park to the west. It could be used for outside venues.”