Oct 12, 2023 - News

Bentonville library construction in full swing

Photo: Courtesy of Bentonville Public Library

The Bentonville Public Library's 22,750-square-foot addition downtown on South Main Street is underway, and library leaders want the new space to keep up with burgeoning interests.

Why it matters: Bentonville's increasing population and the extra foot traffic downtown are making the library quite popular, according to its director, Hadi Dudley.

Dudley regularly sees NWA newcomers, often with kids, come in for library cards, she tells Axios.

  • The existing 38,500-square-foot library has some catching up to do to accommodate these young families, Dudley says.

Context: The library hasn't quite recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. It saw about 319,700 visits in 2019, compared with 257,100 in 2022.

  • Yes, but: That's still a 52% increase from 2021, when there were about 169,200 visits. And Dudley says it's only getting busier.

State of play: Construction started in late spring, but dirt work and utility relocation took months. Its first foundation slab was poured two weeks ago.

Details: New space will include meeting rooms, a community hub and business center, space for physical materials including books, and dedicated spaces for kids' story times, crafts and makerspaces. The used bookstore inside the library will also quadruple in size.

By the numbers: The city estimates the project will cost about $16.75 million. A $4.5 million city bond is helping pay for the work. The library foundation has raised an additional $10.8 million in two years from businesses, philanthropic organizations and family trusts, including a $1.5 million donation from the Walmart Foundation.

Zoom out: Fayetteville's public library completed a nearly $50 million expansion in 2021.

What's next: Bentonville library leaders expect the expansion to be complete next summer.

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