With the turn of a shovel on Thursday morning, Bobbie Morgan's dream became a reality.
The director of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System was joined by several other library and city officials at the groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new main library at Sixth Avenue and Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington heralded the event as “a great day in the City of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We are standing strong in unity today.”
Morgan thanked the residents of Pine Bluff for passing the 2016 millage that allowed construction of the $10 million facility, which is slated for a spring 2020 opening.
Architects Polk, Stanley, Wilcox, Little Rock, in association with Reed Architectural Firm, Pine Bluff, imagined the new facility as a transformative force for the downtown area. Now, East Harding Construction, Little Rock and a host of Pine Bluff construction and trade alliance craftsmen, begin the journey to transform imagining into reality.
Van Tilbury, president and CEO of East Harding Construction, said that “the future for Pine Bluff is bright and East Harding Construction is thrilled to be selected as the Construction Manager for these two library projects. I commend the citizens for passing the tax that will fund buildings that change lives, transform downtown Pine Bluff and enrich the Watson Chapel community. We intend to work with as many members of the Pine Bluff Construction & Trade Alliance as possible to build these two projects in order to keep as many tax dollars in the local economy as possible. It is an exciting time for Pine Bluff.”
Voters approved a 3.0-mill tax increase to raise $14 million in November 2016 to construct a new library building in Pine Bluff and to renovate the Watson Chapel library. Similarly, county voters approved a 0.25 mill increase to fund renovations at the White Hall, Altheimer and Redfield branches.
The 32,000-square-foot downtown library will feature a computer lab with the latest technology to search and apply for employment opportunities.
A glass-enclosed Teen Loft, a Youth Learning Layer for kid-friendly events, two recording studios and public meeting rooms will be included. There will be a teaching kitchen for practical preparations to teach children how to prepare meals and snacks for themselves, mom and dad. A coffee shop is also included in the plans for the new library.
The Pine Bluff Library was established in 1913 as a Public Library Association with the assistance of the local Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
An article in the Jefferson County Historical Quarterly spring 2018 issue states, “Mrs. Marion Dewoody Pettigrew, beginning in 1913, was deeply involved in the beginning of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library. In 1930, voters approved a $65,000 bond issue to build a library on West Fifth Avenue. The library opened in 1931 with Pettigrew as president. She later became the librarian.”
The library was located at Fifth Avenue and Chestnut Street, and the building is still standing today.
In 1979, an Interlocal Agreement was established between the City of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County creating the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System. The library continues to operate under the terms of this agreement which, among other matters, established the funding for the library to be provided by an ad valorem property tax, a tax whose amount is based on the value of a transaction or of a property.
The tax rate which funds the library's operations only (not the new construction) has not increased for approximately 30 years.
The library is currently located in the east portion of the Pine Bluff Civic Center built in 1963-68.