News Flash

Chesterfield On Point - Archive

Posted on: January 31, 2024

Community turns out in numbers to get first look at new Midlothian Library

County residents arrive Wednesday for the new Midlothian Library ribbon-cutting

County officials cut a ribbon to formally open the new Midlothian Library

Hundreds of enthusiastic Chesterfield residents joined county officials Wednesday morning for an event nearly two decades in the making: a ceremonial ribbon-cutting that marked the grand opening of the new Midlothian Library.

“The day has finally arrived – a new library for Midlothian is here!” said Midlothian District Supervisor Mark Miller, vice chair of the Board of Supervisors. “This modern facility commemorates the community’s commitment to the next generation, but we’re not just here to celebrate a building. We’re here to acknowledge the many people who brought us to this day.”

Funding for construction of a new library in the Midlothian District was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Chesterfield’s 2004 bond referendum, but before the project could get under way, it and other planned capital improvements were delayed by the global economic downturn of 2008.

By the time Leslie Haley was elected to represent Midlothian on the Board of Supervisors in 2015, the economy had recovered enough that she began discussing with her colleagues the possibility of putting the library back into Chesterfield’s five-year capital improvement program (CIP).

Haley likewise spoke to many constituents about the project. Through those conversations, a community consensus emerged: Instead of building a new library on another site in the district, it made more sense to replace the existing, centrally located Midlothian Library with a larger, modern facility.

“We had outgrown the old library, so it was an easy sell for me to go to my colleagues on the board at the time and say, ‘We need to focus right here in Midlothian village,’” said Haley, who was invited by Miller to offer remarks at Wednesday’s ceremony and participate in the ribbon-cutting. “I thank all of you in the community for your patience during this process.”

Midlothian District Supervisor Mark Miller speaks at ribbon-cutting ceremony for new library

The original, 5,000-square-foot Midlothian Library opened in 1980 adjacent to J.B. Watkins Elementary, on land donated by the Garner family expressly to foster children’s love for learning. It was renovated in 1995, increasing its capacity to 15,000 square feet.

In September 2022, Chesterfield broke ground on a new 25,000-square-foot Midlothian Library to accommodate customer demand in one of the county’s fastest growing areas.

“Those of you who used the 5,000 square-foot facility probably remember it had very small meeting rooms. Now there is one large meeting room that’s about as big as the first library,” said Dr. Mike Mabe, director of Chesterfield County Public Library.

In addition to the community meeting room, the new library has many additional meeting and study spaces equipped with technology to facilitate both in-person and virtual gatherings.

It features a children’s area with many interactive activities; an outdoor classroom with large musical instruments, climbing structures and a learning circle ideal for story time and other programming; gathering spaces for teens and an outdoor reading garden.

“This library is so much more than just books that line shelves. Libraries offer comfort, empowerment and a respite to many,” Miller said.

Hundreds of community members came out for Wednesday's ribbon-cutting in Midlothian

The library also has links to Midlothian’s past. A lobby mural created by artist Matt Lively showcases the history of the Midlothian coal mines. The mines, which were active from before 1730 until 1924, may be the oldest coal mines in the United States. In partnership with the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia, display cases in the lobby will showcase artifacts from the mines. 

Sustainability was another major focus in the design and construction process for the new facility. It was built with renewable yet durable materials and a rooftop solar panel array that is projected to provide nearly 100% of the building’s annual energy consumption.

Finally, it is now physically connected to Watkins Elementary by a walking path.

“It’s truly an honor to stand before you as we embark on a new chapter in our community’s journey,” said Debbie Weatherford, the school’s principal. “Our new library is a testament to the value we place on education and the belief that access to information is fundamental to the success of our community. As we cut this ribbon today, we’re not only opening doors – we’re creating opportunities for learning, exploration and personal growth.”

In recent years, Chesterfield’s libraries have evolved far beyond places to just check out books. 

Community members get their first look at the interior of the new Midlothian Library

During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries were used as virtual learning sites when schools were closed for in-person instruction, and as vital resources for residents who needed help navigating the state’s registration process for vaccines.

With the trend toward teleworking, libraries provide a respite from the distractions of home. Since the advent of expanded in-person early voting, libraries also are now deployed across the county as satellite polling locations. 

“The library is an important cornerstone that helps make a true community,” said Mary Beth Cox, president of Friends of Chesterfield County Public Library. “It’s a gathering place, a place to explore new ideas and a place to learn. I join you in looking forward to all the amazing things this new library has to offer.”

County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey noted that every time he visits a Chesterfield library, “I come out a little bit smarter than when I entered.”

During his remarks Wednesday, Casey read a quote from American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie: “A library outranks any other one thing that is done in a community to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”

“Those words from many years ago hold true today,” Casey said.


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