Residents of East Baton Rouge Parish have 24,476 additional books, 4,190 more audio-visual items and 50 new computers available to them after the Fairwood Branch Library officially opened its doors Wednesday.
The $5.4 million new branch — the library’s 13th in addition to the main library — is a 15,800-square-foot building that took a year and a half to build, Assistant Library Director Mary Stein said.
Fairwood’s design shows how public libraries are evolving, said Spencer Watts, the library system’s director.
“This one has new features, such as collaborative work spaces, dedicated study rooms and a drive-up window,” Watts said.
The library, located on Old Hammond Highway near South Flannery Road, could host 7,000 to 9,000 visitors per month, Watts said. He said that is about average for the other branch libraries.
Janetta Kriel was checking her email on one of the public computers just minutes after the doors officially opened.
“This will be great for me,” she said, adding that the library was close to her house. “I come for the books mostly, but also the computers when my computer gives me problems.”
A. Richard Chenot said he had already reserved a copy of the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War to show to a seniors group he belongs too.
“I always go to the main library,” he said, referring to the location on Goodwood Boulevard, nearly 5 miles away. “This is a lot closer.”
Mayor-president Kip Holden, who attended the opening, said the idea of a library in the area was first broached when Library Board member Stanford O. Bardwell Jr. and former Metro Councilman Mike Walker approached him.
“This is an educational foundation,” he said, adding that the city had expanded so much that a branch in the area was sorely needed.
“It’s a very intimate setting,” he said. “I see this as basic service.”
Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who succeeded Walker as District 8’s representative on the Metro Council, said credit should also go to Walker’s council aide, Zona Pickens.
“It was Zona’s idea to suggest to the developer to donate the land,” he said.
The land was donated in 2008 by David Todd Waguespack and Kelly C. Sills, who represented Kodiak Equipment, LLC.
Construction began in September 2011 and was performed by Stuart and Company, Stein said.
Bardwell, who has worked on the project from the beginning, said it was good to see it come to fruition.
“It will become a landmark in this part of the parish,” he said. “This district is underserved.”
Nichole Chester, who lives nearby, said she would come to the new branch to use the computers to job search and use the Internet.
“I will probably come a lot,” she said. “It’s just two minutes away.”