Politics & Government

Wichita celebrates library construction kickoff

New Wichita library breaks ground

City and library officials gathered on the southwest corner of McLean and Second St. for the groundbreaking of the new Wichita library Wednesday. (Video by Fernando Salazar)
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City and library officials gathered on the southwest corner of McLean and Second St. for the groundbreaking of the new Wichita library Wednesday. (Video by Fernando Salazar)

Wichita took a significant step further into the Information Age on Wednesday with a ceremony marking the start of construction of the Advanced Learning Library.

The $33 million high-tech facility, the third-largest municipal building project in the past 20 years, will replace the aging Central Library downtown next to Century II Convention Center.

City and library officials gathered on the southwest corner of McLean and Second St. for the groundbreaking of the new Wichita library Wednesday. (Video by Fernando Salazar)

“It’s certainly my honor to be here breaking ground on this new library that many will say was too long in the making,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell. “I think since 2006 we had begun those talks, so here a decade later we are finally breaking ground.”

About 100 officials and bibliophiles attended the ceremony at the site of the new library, a vacant lot on Second Street across McLean Boulevard from the Exploration Place science museum. Almost all of them turned a shovelful of dirt with one of about a dozen gilded shovels on site.

The new library will feature a variety of upgrades over the current facility. Here’s a look at some of the things to come and what it will take to get there:

New stuff

Triple the technology: The new library will have a technology pavilion with approximately 100 computers for public use, compared with 31 at the current library.

Faster internet speeds: It will have gigabit-bandwidth internet service, allowing multiple times faster downloading, surf speeds and online game play. A grant from Cox Communications will pay for about the first three years of service.

Dedicated parking: It won’t have to share a parking lot as the current library does with Century II.

Cafe: It will have a cafe area serving coffee and baked goods.

Auditorium: It will have a public meeting room to seat approximately 300. The largest room in the current library seats about 90.

Accessibility: All facilities will be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The elevators will be larger and more accessible for people in wheelchairs.

Genealogy pavilion: The library will offer a substantially larger space for storing and researching genealogical records.

More for kids: The children’s pavilion will be nearly 2 1/2 times the size of the current children’s section at the downtown library. The area for teens will be 85 percent larger.

By the numbers

8,890 tons of concrete

992 tons of structural and reinforcing steel

6 acres of drywall

50,000 feet of shelving

17,400 square feet of glass

6,622 square yards of asphalt paving

46 miles of electrical wire

444 support pillars

4,000 gallons of paint

2,016 light fixtures

118 doors

27 toilets

They said it

“For me libraries are about connecting people — connecting them with information, connecting people with our history, connecting people to our community, all those connections made with the simple intention of improving the lives of all our citizens.” Mark Chamberlin, Wichita Public Library Foundation

“The next time when you come back to this location, you will not only be greeted with air conditioning, but a library filled with technology, space and resources the community has identified as important to their learning and leisure needs.” Kellie Hogan, Library Board president

“I’m telling you, this (gigabit internet speed) is going to melt your iPad.” Don Barry, Wichita Public Library Foundation

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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