More than 100 people gathered to enjoy free food, live music and other activities at the main library on Goodwood Boulevard on Saturday as Baton Rouge park and library system leaders cut a ribbon for a new plaza and a “cyber café” set to open early next year.
“BREC and the library teamed up to create something that is unlike anything that you’ll see here in this parish — a brand-new modern library, BREC’s teaching café, and this wonderful plaza all joined together,” said Carolyn McKnight, superintendent of the Recreation and Park Commission , before a crowd of dozens of Baton Rouge residents and families gathered at the library.
Officials with the park and library systems heralded the plaza as a way to link the recreation aspects of Independence Park with the functionality of the library. The plaza features a stage with grass seating, a large chess board and a splash fountain at the center.
Officials hope to make the park and library into an all-day destination for residents and visitors.
The event also showcased BREC’s Independence Park Cyber Café, which will feature a Roly Poly sandwich shop in a location that also will serve coffee from CC’s Coffee House, said the location’s co-owner, Harry Wiggins.
Wiggins, who also owns a Roly Poly location on Nicholson Drive with his wife, Kimberly Wiggins, plans to have the shop open by February and roughly match the library’s hours seven days a week.
Harry Wiggins hopes that with the shop in place, “You can … relax with the book you just checked out” in the soon-to-come seating areas inside the building, Wiggins said.
Under the layout of the old library, the library and park system were separated by fences and distance, and people either went to one or the other, said Ted Jack, an assistant superintendent at BREC.
“You had these two really great public spaces that didn’t interact at all,” Jack said. “Now you get the synergy of the two spaces. The café helps energize the area. People don’t have to leave.”
The building housing the café will host a range of services, including a botanic garden book collection and a space for conservation day camps, Jack said.
The building will not feature computer terminals — those are in the library itself — but will be set up for wireless access to the Internet. Jack said officials hope the combination of a vendor, library and wireless Internet access will mean that more people will use the space and stay longer.
Saturday’s event featured live music from the Baton Rouge Jazz Ensemble, a rose sale by the Rose Society and an annual flower show by the Baton Rouge Garden Club.
The new opening comes almost a year after the new library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd., opened in January.
Construction continues on part of the library/park complex.
BREC is revamping a crushed-granite path that is slightly longer than a mile and wraps around the whole campus and also remodeling garden space. The library system will install LED screens on a side of the building for outdoor viewing.
Eventgoers were pleased with the renovations.
“It’s a lot nicer,” said Adam Smith, of Gonzales. “It’s more inviting for people. I think more people will come because of it.”