When Connie Foster and Cathy Carroll stepped into the new library, they felt overwhelmed and excited.
Earlier in the morning, they joined about 1,000 other Wichitans to pass symbolic items and books from the old Central Library at 223 S. Main to the new Advanced Learning Library at Second and McLean Boulevard.
The items included books like “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Jamberry,” a puppet from “Where the Wild Things Are,” a GoPro and a 3-D printed miniature of Mo, the giraffe who towers over the children’s area.
“I am just so glad today to be a part of history,” Foster said.
Once inside, Foster made a beeline for the children’s area, knowing her 16-month-old twin grandchildren would love the story time, the giant giraffe and the “baby mosh pit.”
The new library was bright, open and “just pretty,” Carroll said.
Hundreds of people packed into the $38 million library after the Book Brigade and a ribbon cutting.
Inside, children watched as a 3-D printer created Pokemon characters and animals. Adults viewed sewing machine demonstrations or ordered coffee from Reverie Coffee Roasters. Teenagers browsed young adult fiction or checked out the AV studio in the teen pavilion. Some looked up books on kiosks around the library or browsed the shelves for their favorite genre. Others brought books to return, dropping them through a slot and watching them move up a conveyer belt.
Dozens of library staff were on hand, helping sign people up for library cards, use the self checkout machines or navigate the roughly 100,000-square-foot building.
Rose Hammarbeck sat on the edge of the interactive “baby mosh pit,” watching as her daughter Sofia, 3, played.
She’s glad her daughter can grow up visiting the new Advanced Learning Library, Hammarbeck said. The librarians already know Sofia’s name.
“It’s the best place to go. Everybody needs to be a part of the community and to learn and to read and to grow,” Hammarbeck said. “I think this is the best place to do that at. I tell everybody to go to the library.”
Seeing the crowd of people flood into the library was exciting, said Cynthia Berner, Wichita’s director of libraries.
“This is something that’s really extraordinary,” she said. “We have everything that’s important to being a traditional library, but we have so much more. … It’s going to be a great place for people to come explore. I think it’s the kind of space that will be ever-changing, so one visit won’t be enough.”
Walking into the library for the first time filled Jessica Torres with a feeling of joy and excitement, she said.
Torres was just accepted to Emporia State University for graduate studies in library science. On Saturday, she checked out a few graphic novels and her favorite book: “The Outsiders.”
She thought it would be special to check out her favorite book on the first day of the new library.
“It’s really, really exciting for the community and for future librarians like me and present librarians,” Torres said. “You’ve got the technology area, the historian stuff upstairs, the children’s section, even just sitting and having a cup of coffee on that new deck, it’s just great. There’s literally something for everyone.”
The new library is open 10-8 Monday through Thursday, 10-6 on Friday and Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday.