The Maples wing of the George Town Library opened last week with a Chamber After Hours event.
In addition to a larger selection of books and reference materials, the modern new wing features computers with Internet, a children’s section and a conference room.
Chamber of Commerce Director Jim O’Neill said the project represented a redevelopment of one of the country’s most important national assets.
‘This library will stimulate learning and serve as a beacon of knowledge… and a centre for life-long learning for many years to come,’ he said.
The new three-storey extension of original George Town Library – which was built in 1939 and opened in 1940 – adds 12,000 square feet of area to the building. Once the new wing is opened, the current library will be refurbished and modernised as well.
The Maples Foundation, established by the law firm Maples and Calder, provided US$2.5 million to the project, its largest donation to date.
Maples Partner Wanda Ebanks said that part of the interest in supporting the project came from the fond childhood memories that many of the other partners had when visiting the library, which she said used to be a social hub in George Town.
Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler, who oversees libraries as part of her duties, said the new library was a milestone for those who love books, love to read and love libraries. But she stressed the greater importance of libraries to the community.
‘Libraries are more than about free books,’ she said. ‘They’re also about free minds.’
Mrs. Wahler spoke about the virtually unrestricted amount of information available at the library.
‘It’s a central service for the entire community,’ she said. ‘It’s not just a place for children to go for books, but a place for everyone.’
Mrs. Wahler said libraries were environmentally friendly.
‘Libraries provide information,’ she said. ‘The information is free. You bring your own container and you can recycle the information infinitely.’
Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said the new library extension showed the People’s Progressive Movement’s commitment to ensuring literacy in the Cayman Islands.
Remembering when his father would take him to the library every Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin called the library the ‘heart, brain and memory of the community’.
Mr. McLaughlin said he hoped the community would make use of the new library extension.
‘The library is an essential part of the fabric of the community,’ he said. ‘It should be full of people.
The extension was built by Royal Construction and designed by Public Works Department architects Colin Lumsden and Sean Evans.
Materials like Caymanite stone and glass were used on the exterior to echo other buildings and historic landmarks in central George Town.
Mr. Lumsden called the interior design ‘modern and honest’.
‘We used a lot of wood and marble, and not a lot of plastic and metal,’ he said.