Durham County Main Library Reopens as a Symbol of Community Pride
A dream achieved, at last. Over 30,000 more square feet, outdoor plazas, space for community, upgraded technology and more. The Durham County Main Library reopened this summer following a $44.3 million renovation project that lasted more than four years.
For Durhamites, the library has quickly become a symbol of community pride. Known for its drive and resilience, the Durham community has never shied away from a challenge. The library is the community’s latest crowning achievement, creating a modern, public space with free access to technology, books, work spaces and other educational resources for all Durham County residents. Mimi O’Brien, executive director of The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, says “Main Library makes me Durham proud.”
For many community members, the upgrades exceeded expectations.
Two of the immediate eye-catching improvements, the sleek architecture and modern furnishings fuse sophistication with accessibility. A large central staircase provides access to the top floors of the building including a rooftop terrace and cutting-edge technology center. Other features include an auditorium with retractable stadium seating, designated teen and children’s MakerLabs, an extended North Carolina Collection and the Incubator, an office space for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
When compared with the old library, the new library is almost unrecognizable.
With significantly less square footage, the old library was often overcrowded and lacked meeting space for entrepreneurs and professionals. Now containing nearly 100,000 square feet, the renovated library makes space for Durham’s youngest community members to its oldest.
The renovation has been a multi-year dream for Durham. In 2016, citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $44.3 million bond referendum for Transformation Main, a complete renovation of Main Library. While construction was completed in early 2020, the grand reopening was postponed due to the pandemic. In July 2021, the dream was finally fulfilled with an official reopening to the eagerly-awaiting public.
The success of the renovation would not have been possible without the support of the Durham Library Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money and managing investments in support of Durham County Library. Through a capital campaign and investment savings, the Foundation provided $1.2 million for the Main Library renovation. “Supporting Main Library was mission driven for the Foundation. We helped an excellent Library become even better,” says Karen Wells, executive director of the Foundation.
While the building has changed, the mission of the library remains the same: to encourage discovery, connect the community and lead in literacy. The library enhances cultural, educational and creative opportunities for all Durham residents. “The fully reinvented space is a significant community and learning center for all,” says Tammy Bagget-Best, library director. “We are so excited to at last share this amazing building with our community.”