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With new library going up, old building will be branch location
When the old Yuma Main Library opened its doors in 1921 it became a community center for the western town.
Opened in 1921, it was one of 2,500 Carnegie libraries built in the United States through donations by Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie. Its first librarian, Addie Kline, was the daughter of the superintendent of the Arizona Territorial Prison.
"There's a lot of history in this building," said Susan Evans, director of the Yuma County Library District, as she led county officials on a tour of the old building Wednesday.
Part of the architecture dating back to 1921 can still be seen in the doors and windows outside the former children's room.
While the library has had some small renovations during the past 20 years, it has not undergone any major expansion since 1965. The passage of time and the growth of the city made the library too old and too small to fulfill its mission for the community.
But, as the $53.7 million library bond projects build a new main library and expands library services across Yuma County, the heritage within that old building is being preserved.
A new $28-million main library will be built on 10 acres near 21st Drive and 28th Place. Construction will start Feb. 4, and the 80,000 square-foot facility is slated to be finished in the spring of 2009.
While the new library will occupy the southwest end of town, the old main library will be turned into a branch facility. Known as the Heritage Branch, it will offer the same services it did before, acting as a second library for the city of Yuma.
"It'll be like a branch library and it'll serve this end of town," Evans said.
The demolition phase of the project was just completed, according to Bryan Parker of Brignall Construction, the contractor on the Heritage Branch portion of the library project.
Construction is under way now and Parker said his crew is on track to have the old library rebuilt and reopened by July. Its books, computers and other services, which have been housed in a temporary facility at 185 S. Main St. for more than a year, will then return there.
While the libraries are growing, those who walked through the old facility Wednesday said their role in Yuma had not changed.
"Just like museums, they're gathering places," said Anne Harrison, a member of the library district board of trustees. "The library has always been fascinating. Before we would buy a book, my parents would always have us go to the library and check it out and see if it was a book we wanted."
She said her grandchildren now "almost live" at the library, participating actively in the anime club. What the library has to offer has changed since Harrison was a schoolgirl but it remains a fascinating place.
"It helps us grow with the understanding that there is a core identity," Harrison said. "I'm not saying you have to live in the past but don't forget the past."
Sarah Reynolds can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6847.