Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Big Story

May 6, 2010

New Art Circle Library celebrates grand opening

CROSSVILLE — Torrential rain left a lasting impression as it made its way across the state last weekend. Sunday's gloomy forecast, however, could not keep Sandra Purcell from smiling.

“I’ve always been proud of where I come from… (but) never before have I ever been as proud of this place and its people as I am today,” said Purcell, chairman of the Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees.

After an extensive waiting period, the new Art Circle Public Library at 3 East First St. officially opened its doors May 3, giving the community its first glimpse of the new 35,000 square foot “living room” designed to serve everyone in Cumberland County.

“We believe that this building not only reflects Cumberland County, but the best of Cumberland County,” Purcell said.

Purcell, along with County Mayor Brock Hill and other excited individuals who helped with the library’s creation, welcomed hundreds of patrons and visitors to the facility’s Community Room during a downpour to kick off the grand opening celebration.

“I know a lot of us have always thought of a library as a place for books…,” said Hill. “But your library is much, much more than a depository for books.”

Hill pointed out that there are plenty of areas to explore in the two-story building, such as the Children's Library, Carol Darling Reading Room, Young Adult Room, Circle of Friends Bookstore, Food for Thought Cafe and the Tennessee Room.

Located to the left of the facility's front entrance, the Children's Library features four children's learning computers, a built-in puppet window for impromptu puppet shows and several rows of books and learning materials.

"The theme of the Children’s Library is the ‘County Fair,’ one of the defining events of Cumberland County,” Purcell explained.

Items scattered throughout the room are based on this theme, such as a quilt titled "From the Farm to the Fair," donated by the Cumberland County Piecemakers, a charming mural of a grand stand scene at the county fair located in the activities area and the hand-sculptured and brightly colored carousel animals, tractor and wagon encircling the story-time room, also called the Children's Reading Carousel.

Hill recalled a time when he visited the children's room when the library was at the corner of First and Thurman. The room was smaller than what the new facility offers, he noted.

"When you get into this new library, you are going to see that the new children’s library is bigger than the entire library was from back when I was a little boy,” he said.

Inside the Children's Library, there are window seats and soft cushions that offer a bird's eye view into the adjacent Carol Darling Reading Room, named after the former chair of the Library Board of Trustees who helped to make this library a reality.

"More than 10 years ago, the need for a larger facility was apparent and an effort to build a new library was begun by the Library Board of Trustees, the Friends of the Art Circle Public Library and other library supporters. Although the effort was not successful at that time, those people laid the groundwork for what would come later… About five years ago, a new effort began, spearheaded by the late Carol Brown Darling…,” Purcell stated, sparking an applause from the crowd.

“That applause is very well deserved," she added. "We wouldn’t be here today if it had not been for Carol’s efforts. She was passionate about the community’s needs for a new larger library and she worked tirelessly gathering support throughout the community. In late 2006, the county commissioners recognized that need and appropriated the funds."

Once inside the reading room, patrons are greeted with a variety of comfortable seating areas, tables soft lit by table lamps and hanging fixtures and many displays of bestsellers and new releases of popular fiction and nonfiction titles. The room also features one of the two pianos donated to the library, making it easy for the room to be converted to a venue for musical events such as those held Wednesday as part of the grand opening week activities. About 2 1/2 stories high are striking murals done in a Depression-era style that tell the history of Cumberland County, from pioneer days to today, noted Hill.

“The craftsmen-style details are reminsent of an important era in the county’s history, the 1930s and 1940s," Purcell stated.

To the right of the Carol Daring Reading Room is the the Young Adult Room, with bookshelves in the rear of the room serving as the Circle of Friends Bookstore. Next to the bookstore is the Food for Thought Cafe, manned by manager Vicken Chickbourkian and Diana Gilson.

"Go over and get yourself a cappuccino and a pastry and then go sit down and read your book,”Hill said.

The cafe offers salads and sandwiches catered by Stagecoach Cafe as well as coffee, cappuccino, espressos and hot and iced teas. There will be special dishes with Italian and Armenian influences every week, noted Chickbourkian.

"Our top priority is customer service," he said. "Hopefully, we will manage that very well.”

Next to the cafe is a grand staircase that leads to the second story of the new building, where the adult book section is housed. In the middle of the second floor, archways encircle a vast opening to the Carol Darling Reading Room. This central opening divides the adult book collection, with nonfiction and reference materials on the right and fiction and a Tennessee collection on the left.

"On the outside balcony, also on the second floor, provides quiet refuge as well as a fantastic view of the county seat in Crossville, TN,” Hill pointed out. "There is also something up there called the Tennessee Room."

The Tennessee Room is dedicated to a new and special collection featuring local fiction authors on one side and nonfiction books specific to Tennessee on the other. A large table made from curly cherry wood and topped with collectibles and artwork divides the room.

"There’s a lot of historic and patriotic collectibles and arts and crafts on the history of Cumberland County scattered all throughout this building just like you might find in a museum," said Hill.

'The most amazing thing was that many of these gifts were unsolicited. People came forward and offered," said Purcell.

Purcell said she was touched by the generosity shown by individuals and businesses during the creation of the library and reminded the crowd that the services offered at the library are free and accessible to everyone in Cumberland County.

"This new exciting library is a place where everyone can gather to read, learn and grow, where they can access the world through information technologies and where they can meet in groups, large and small, with discourse with their neighbors," she said.

"The Cumberland County Library board of trustees is proud to dedicate the new Art Circle Public Library to the people of Cumberland County," she concluded.

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