Centralia Regional Library

The Centralia Regional Library has had a long storied history in the city and surrounding communities. To find out more, log on to the library website here.

Centralia Regional Library dedicates, unveils new expansion


Sentinel News Staff


CENTRALIA — Readers of all ages stepped into the new Centralia Regional Library Sunday to get a first-hand look of progress that was years in the making.

A standing-room-only crowd squeezed into the new activity room to listen in as library officials dedicated the $2.7 million expansion and renovation project. The open house event also provided an opportunity for the community to learn about the new services.

The push to expand the library had several obstacles along the way to becoming a reality, including planning years in advance, securing of a $1.9 million grant from the Illinois State Library, raising the other 25-percent of the cost and dealing with weather delays in construction.

Staying open during the time of change proved difficult.

“At times we didn’t really think we would see it happen,” Library Director Joyce Courter said. “But we are here today to celebrate the completion of this wonderful project.”

Library Board of Trustees President Mike Loomis said the long storied history of Centralia Carnegie Library is indicative of what a community could do after it rallies together for a common goal.

“I think this proves nothing but that we are patient and persistent,” he said.

Loomis also remarked on the role a regional library has on the lives of modern families. He said those who do not see the importance in today’s technology-based society are missing something truly special. He said the 113-year-old library began as a $20,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie, and since then, it has grown to become an integral institution for both Centralia and the surrounding area.

“These people fail to realize the breadth and extent of services that are offered by a modern library,” Loomis said. “They also don’t recognize the value of bringing a community and its people together.”

During her speech, Courter also made mention of former Library Director Barbara Peterson, who traveled from her current home in Texas to attend the celebration.

After the dedication, community members were invited to take passports and explore the building’s renovations. Stops on the tour included a reading room, a computer lab, a junior room, youth services department, teen room, non-fiction room and Friends of the Library Table. Other changes include an elevator between floors.

Rita Lewis, who works in Youth Services, has been an employee at the Centralia Regional Library for the past 16 years. She said she has seen the progress building up to the library’s new addition and is glad the day has come to show it off to the community.

“I think it is just wonderful,” Lewis said of the new changes. “We are excited for everyone to come see it.”

Justen Stack, a former employee of the library, said he toured the new facility to get a glimpse at what had only been a dream for so many years.

“This is a long time coming,” Stack said.

The dedication also included the unveiling of the name-the-dragon contest winner. Malory Cripps of Salem submitted the winning entry for the dragon mural, which is located in the new Youth Services department. Daring the Dragon, who Lewis said “dares” children to become adventurous readers, can be seen just above the fireplace in the new renovated area.

NEW JUNIOR ROOM – Rita Lewis describes the new equipment in the library’s renovated junior room Sunday afternoon during the Centralia Regional Library open house. Lewis, who has worked at the library for the last 16 years, said she believes the new space is a welcomed change for the library. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

WHAT TO CHECK OUT – Mia Rushing, 8, of Centralia combs through the shelves Sunday during the Centralia Regional Library open house tour.

Sentinel Photo/LEAH WILLIAMS
RIBBON CUTTING – Library associates, Chamber of Commerce members and interested community members pose together at the east entrance of the new east entrance of the Centralia Regional Library Sunday afternoon. The dedication and open house drew a standing-room only crowd as the community came out to view the latest addition.

MEET DARING THE DRAGON – Malory Cripps of Salem presented the winning entry in the name the dragon contest at the Centralia Regional Library. Daring the Dragon is a mural painting in the new youth department. Cripps said she came up with the name with the help of her mom, Melissa Cripps.