South Burlington community members gathered at University Mall June 13, wagons and canvas bags loaded to the brim with books. After picking up the books from inside the mall at the South Burlington Public Library’s old location, the Bag ‘N’ Wagon parade culminated at the library’s new location at 180 Market St., which will open to the public next month.
The parade’s main goal was not to transport the library’s inventory, which will be a much longer process done in the weeks leading up to the opening, but instead to provide a fun event to kick off the move.
Before the parade began, participants gathered in the mall parking lot. There were bubbles, chalk and the Big Blue Trunk, a small train offering rides for kids.
Kelly Kendall, librarian of the children’s section, was in the middle of the excitement, drawing a whale with chalk on the pavement.
“We were just looking for a way to involve the community because it’s really a big, complicated move, but this is sort of a symbolic celebration,” Kendall said.
She spoke about the greater impact of the library’s new location within City Center, where city hall and a senior center will also be housed. City Center, which has been under construction for about a year but in the plans for decades, opens in July.
“I think it’s really going to change the way people come to South Burlington. It’s going to be walkable, a destination place,” said Kendall.
According to Kendall, this is the first time South Burlington has had a freestanding library. Before the location inside the University Mall, the library lived inside South Burlington High School.
She’s excited to do fun, “messy” activities with kids, many of which she could not do at the library’s location inside the mall.
“It’s the little things,” Kendall said, beaming. “I’ll have a washing machine so I can wash stuff. I’ll have a sink.”
“I honestly can’t think of one thing I’m most excited about other than finally welcoming people into that space. I cannot wait,” she said.
Penelope Tompkins, library trustee and volunteer director of the ASPIRE fundraising campaign, said that the parade was to celebrate the move, but also to bring the community together. As of June 15, Gov. Phil Scott lifted all state pandemic restrictions, allowing for larger, in-person events such as this one.
“The community has been missing getting together so that was another element, this idea that ‘Wow, we can all get together, isn’t that fabulous?’” said Tompkins.
As children piled onto the train or busied themselves with chalk drawings, adults talked in small groups, enjoying the summer weather and opportunity to gather. Many parents remarked on how excited their child was about the new location.
“My daughter has been saying, ‘When I get out of school I’m just going to go straight to the library,’” said parade participant Bettina Miguez. Her child attends Rick Marcotte Central School, an elementary school that neighbors the library’s new location.
At 11 a.m., the parade began. Led by the book-filled Big Blue Trunk and aided by police, participants crossed Dorset Street and turned down Market Street, taking only a few minutes to reach the new location less than a mile away.
Across from the new building, which is still closed to the public, volunteers waited to receive the books. There were also tables for summer reading packets, a bake sale run by Friends of the South Burlington Public Library and a table for the library’s fundraising campaign, ASPIRE.
Friends of the South Burlington Public Library is a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting the library and will run a used bookstore within the new location.
The ASPIRE fundraising campaign was launched by the South Burlington Library Foundation in order to raise money to add new spaces, collections and technology. Their goal is to raise $500,000 by opening day and they will continue to fundraise over the coming years.
“The city created a design, and we want to enhance the space,” said Jay Pasackow, president of the campaign and member of the South Burlington Library board of trustees.
Pasackow spoke about the library’s opening as being the “right place at the right time,” as COVID-related restrictions lift and community events can take place within the building.
“It’s more than just a collection of books … it’s a place where people can get together, can meet, can join, can exchange ideas,” said Pasackow. “I think when people see the new library they will be just thrilled.”
Over the next few weeks, volunteers will continue to transport books to the new location and prepare for the library’s grand opening, which will take place on July 23 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.