South Roanoke majority against location of proposed e-library

Plan would put library vending machine in green space near fire station

ROANOKE, Va. – Plans for a new library usually don't make a whole lot of noise, but that's not the case for a new e-library planned in South Roanoke. Some neighbors are rallying the troops because they don't like the location.

The plan calls for a gazebo-like structure covering what's essentially a vending machine for libraries. The city estimates it would have a small footprint, akin to a few post office boxes. And those who are OK with the plan were in the minority Thursday night.

The plan is to bring books, DVDs and more right to South Roanoke residents' doorsteps, part of a larger plan to make neighborhoods more connected to city libraries.

"It's a box that will hold 500 items. There's none in Virginia. There are some all over the world, but there are none in Virginia so we'd be the first one," Roanoke City Director of Libraries Sheila Umberger said.

It's what's basically an oversized Redbox planned for a slice of the greenspace adjacent to the firestation in South Roanoke. But as usual, it's all about location, location, location, and many aren't all in for this one.

"We're all for the libary, but we're absolutely against anything ever structurally happening on this firehouse green," neighbor Eric Fitzpatrick said.

On Thursday night a few dozen people showed up at the green space for a listening session with the city and to say no to the proposal. Fitzpatrick's post on Facebook spurred even more current and former Roanoke residents to voice their opinion, chiming in with no votes.

"You talk to anybody (on the street), and none of these people had heard about the proposal," Fitzpatrick said. "I went and knocked on doors and said 'Do you know about this?' And they said, 'No, but we're outraged.' No one wants it in their front yard."

The machine would sit on a concrete slab and feature lighting as well as a gazebo-type structure to protect it. The city said it would only take up about 5 percent of the total green space.

"I think tonight, you're seeing mostly dissenters," neighbor Anita Booth said.

Booth is in the minority of people for the proposed location, especially because of the high volume of foot traffic it draws.

"They're talking about being Tudor, which is wonderful," Booth said. "It will fit right in, and I just think it's a wonderful thing for South Roanoke."

The city wants to make the project work for everyone, and they say "preliminary" is the key word here. They are listening and want feedback.

"I think any time that we have questions or feedback that it's imperative that we listen and talk to people," Umberger said.

The city will take Thursday night's feedback and work it into its plan. It's expected to have an updated version in the next few weeks. Umberger said it's incredibly important to make it easy to access all the resources the library offers.

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