Rehoboth library moving out of city

The Rehoboth Beach Public Library announced it is looking to place the library outside of the city limits.

After nearly 100 years of serving its users exclusively in downtown, the Rehoboth Beach Public Library has announced it is looking for a new home outside city limits.

The desire to find a new home came to light during a city budget meeting Feb. 17 – the library has asked the city for a $75,000 donation as part of the city’s annual contribution. Tom Wontorek, Rehoboth Beach Library Board of Trustees president, and Tucker Kokjohn, Rehoboth Beach Library Board of Trustees treasurer, were on hand to update the commissioners on the library’s recent decision.

They said a needs study conducted in 2019 showed 90% of the library's users live more than two miles from the current location. According to a Jan. 30 resolution approved by the library board, the library's service area encompasses about 32 square miles and about 16,000 people. The resolution calls for a satellite facility to remain downtown to service about 3,000 people within two miles of the existing location.

In some form or another, the Rehoboth library has been in operation since the late 1920s. It’s been in its current location since the mid-1980s, with the east-end addition completed in 2000. The library owns its land downtown.

Building outside the city was not always the plan, said Wontorek. Immediately following the needs study, he said, the library spent years preparing to expand its downtown operation, but parking and space continued to present problems.

Wontorek and Kokjohn would not give a specific location of the new library, but the Jan. 30 resolution says the location being considered is 2.4 miles from JD Shuckers off Route 24, which puts it in the vicinity of the new Artisans’ Bank. The property sale closing is days away, said Kokjohn.

Wontorek said a discussion with officials from the Lewes Public Library spurred their decision to remove their downtown-only blinders. People in the Rehoboth library’s service area go to the Lewes library because it’s easier to use, said Kokjohn.

As for funding for construction of both facilities, Wontorek and Kokjohn said the library will soon begin a capital campaign, which will include money to maintain a presence downtown. Additionally, they said, the Rehoboth library was one of nine libraries in Delaware to receive funds from the American Rescue Plan Act – Rehoboth got $3 million – and there’s a state program that pays for 50% of new construction under the Bond Bill.

The capital campaign will be for both sites, said Kokjohn.

Mayor Stan Mills said he hates the idea of the library leaving town because a library is part of a community.

Commissioners Toni Sharp and Edward Chrzanowski said they were shocked to see the resolution.

Chrzanowski said he appreciated what Wontorek and Kokjohn were saying about staying downtown, but he was concerned it wasn’t going to happen in the end.

Commissioner Patrick Gossett also voiced his disappointment and said the library should have started working with the city in 2019 when the study showed the needs.

Kokjohn did his best to assure commissioners the library will remain. There will be a library in downtown Rehoboth Beach, he said.

Library officials could not be reached after the meeting for more details.

Get a Delaware Library Card Today!

When you sign up online you gain access right away to all eMedia! Download eBooks, read eMagazines, use online resources for FREE! Then, contact your public library to transfer your online account to a full account.

Sign Up Here