ST. FRANCISVILLE — Clara Ruth Saint could hardly contain her excitement.
Since becoming the first West Feliciana Parish Library Board of Control president in 2003, the longtime St. Francisville resident has been on a mission to get a permanent building to serve as the parish’s library.
Saint’s dedication was rewarded Friday when the new parish library officially opened at 5114 Burnett Road. More than 200 guests attended a brief grand opening ceremony on the library’s veranda that included ribbon-cuttings and an open house with refreshments.
Library Director Glenna Fallin credited Saint’s vision and tenacity in getting the parish behind the $4.1 million bond issue that funded the construction.
“Now, after 150 years, we finally have a building we can call our library,” Fallin told the audience.
The 15,000-square-foot building cost $2.9 million, with an additional $390,000 for furnishings, $150,000 for technology, $200,000 for contingency and $422,000 for professional fees. The new facility is five times the size of the old Post Office Building that housed the library on Ferdinand Street.
St. Francisville native Sally Thomson Parker, who lives in Union, South Carolina, donated the 4.6-acre tract of land to the Police Jury in 2007 with the stipulation that it be used only for a library.
Parish President Kevin Couhig admitted to the audience, “I stand before you today eating crow” because he was skeptical a library could be built under budget and ahead of schedule.
“I pay tribute to the effort of Clara Ruth Saint. We’re celebrating a place of community where all of us can come together,” Couhig said.
“It takes everybody in the community pitching in to make something like this happen,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton, who remembers when the library first shared space with the West Feliciana Historical Society.
Dan Shea, president and chief operating officer of The Advocate, announced that the newspaper will donate to the library the bound printed archives of the St. Francisville Democrat, dating from the late 1890s to the present day.
Shea made the announcement on behalf of owners John and Dathel Georges, who recently purchased The Democrat and three of its sister newspapers in the region. The donation includes incomplete archives of other Feliciana newspapers. The Advocate is trying to get the entire collection digitized and if successful, will make it available to the public through the library.
“We want to honor the history of St. Francisville by making this donation,” Shea said. “And The Advocate and The Democrat are committed to writing the first draft of history for this community for many years to come.”
Fallin acknowledged a number of local artists who donated original artwork and photography displayed throughout the new library.
The Friends of the Library donated the decorations in the courtyard in honor of Jordan Truitt.
She said the Pennington Foundation donated $10,000 for arts and crafts for children, and Entergy donated $20,000 for furniture for the meeting room, which she said is booked until next June for events by civic groups, clubs and nonprofits.
During the open house, visitors browsed the library’s rows of bookshelves and magazines and the expanded offering of electronic books and DVDs. Others marveled at the speed of the Internet connections at the state-of-the-art computers.
Meanwhile, youths were able to explore a dedicated children’s room and played on a number of new computers set up just for them.
St. Francisville resident Jerry West and his wife, Ouida West, a retired kindergarten teacher, said they were impressed by the new library.
“It blew our mind. It’s just fantastic,” Ouida West said. “I love the section dedicated to children. It’s going to have great appeal.”
Fallin said she and her staff are just getting started. A survey of parish residents several months ago identified services and materials they’d like to see added to the library.
“I think this is going to be a big step up in the community and will bring everyone together,” she said. “This is just the beginning, and we plan to provide what people want in their library.”
Saint, speaking after the ceremony, called the new library “quite an accomplishment for the board and staff.”
“It was a joint effort by a lot of people and now the community can enjoy it,” Saint said. “We’ve got all kinds of plans for future things.”
The library is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. It’s closed Sundays.
For information, visit www.wfplibrary.org or on Facebook, Friends of the West Feliciana Parish Library, or call (225) 635-3364.