State to build new $22M Wilmington library

A new Wilmington Public Library will be built.

The state is set to acquire a North Market Street site to build a new $22 million Wilmington Library, just a short distance from an existing branch, Gov. John Carney announced Tuesday.

The site, located at 3905 N. Market St., is currently owned by Sport Car Service, a vintage Saab and Subaru dealership run by the Jacobson family. The agreed-upon acquisition price for the 1.3-acre parcel was not disclosed by the state and the property has not yet changed hands, according to county land records.

The Jacobson family has long run the vintage Saab dealership and showroom that will reportedly be sold to make way for the library. 

Construction of the new library will be funded through funds secured in the state’s Fiscal Years 2022-2023 bond bills as well as allocations from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“Libraries have evolved to meet the needs of communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carney said in a statement announcing the project. “This new library in Wilmington will provide services to the surrounding community, benefiting families and children for generations. This could not have been made possible without the work of various stakeholders. Thank you to our Congressional delegation who secured the American Rescue Plan Act funds, members of the General Assembly who ensured funding for library infrastructure through the Bond Bill, and the community leaders who advocated for this.”

The new library comes at a time of celebration and heightened visibility for the Wilmington Public Library, which won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries, earlier this year. It has also hosted a range of sold-out speaker appearances, ranging from country music star Dolly Parton to rap legend KRS-One to the upcoming cast reunion of “A Different World.”

The new facility would not replace the existing North Wilmington Library, which sits just a few blocks away at 3400 N. Market St. Opened in 1997, that library has aging facilities and inadequate parking for larger crowds and is currently undergoing a $6 million renovation to better utilize its space for a modern audience. It reportedly still has a 15-year lease, according to officials.

“Both libraries will coexist and provide complementary services to residents of the city,” said a spokesperson for the Delaware Department of State, which oversees state libraries.

While the Wilmington Public Library on Rodney Square serves the city center, Woodlawn Branch Library is accessible to the city’s west side, and the North Wilmington Branch Library serves north and east Wilmington, city residents in southside communities like Southbridge or Browntown don’t currently have a library nearby. The DOS spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether other sites in Wilmington were considered or what in particular attracted officials to the North Market Street site.

State Sen. Darius Brown, who represents the North Wilmington area, said the project “is about giving our children in marginalized communities better opportunities to succeed.”

“Libraries help bridge inequities in our communities. Reimagining our libraries is paramount to helping our young folks who are falling through the cracks of our education system and as a result, ending up on the streets,” he said in a statement.

It was a sentiment echoed by fellow local politician, Rep. Nmandi Chukwuocha, who noted the correlation between libraries, literacy levels and a reduction of crime.

“By investing in this new library, we’re working to improve graduation rates while reducing the crime rate on our streets so that more kids end up on a path to successful lives and prosperous careers. Smart investments like these are powerful to change our communities for the better,” he added in a statement. 

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