It has been a highly anticipated moment for Elmhurst and greater Queens, but the wait is finally over.
On Tuesday, a crowd of neighbors, elected officials, and staff and stakeholders celebrated the grand opening of the $32.4 million Elmhurst Community Library after five years of construction.
“To me, the best part is that it’s open and it’s here to serve the needs of the community. It's here to really be a beacon of light for all of the people who are part of this great community," said Queens Library President and CEO, Dennis M. Walcott.
One person who couldn't wait to use the library was Clare Tota of Elmhurst. She took the honor of being the first person to check out books at the new library.
"I love how modern it looks. I’m only across the street I can come here everyday practically," Tota said.
The 32,000-square feet library is expected to be the busiest stand alone library in the country, estimated to draw some 1.2 million visits a year to its four floors of library service.
Bernice Penner, also of Elmhurst, said she is ecstatic the library is finally open. She said the temporary library just wasn't the same.
"It’s light and open and a lot of space," she said.
The state of the art building uses less energy and is built to LEED Silver standards.
The complex building, designed by Marpillero Pollack Architects, replaces the circa 1906 Carnegie Library that was half the size of the new library.
Although the old library was demolished, parts of the old library are incorporated in the new building to preserve its history. For instance, the original fireplace is now in the children’s room and brickwork from the old facade surround the foyer of the new Broadway entrance.
Despite the impressive architecture and design of the building, those who had a hand in building it said they are proud of what it will mean to the community.
Stalco Construction Superintendent, Kevin Strebel, said he came to know community members who cared deeply about the library's progress.
"[The proudest part is] knowing that future generations will come to this library, and learn and decide what their future careers will be. We need to get them into the library and this building I believe helps do that. So it’s much more than just masonry and steel to us," Strebel said.
The library's English collection includes about 75,000 books and materials, plus an international collection of representing nine other languages.
Council member Jimmy Van Bramer said there will be enough funding to keep the library open six days a week.