Everything you ever imagined at the renovated Durham County Main Library is true. 

Well . . . maybe not everything, but something close. 

There are new 3D printers; an abundance of workspace and study rooms; a 275-person indoor auditorium; a play area with an interactive light wall for kids; outdoor terraces overlooking downtown Durham and more. Oh yeah, and floors and floors of books. Needless to say, the nearly 100,000-square-foot space is a playground for entrepreneurs, readers, and learners of all ages. 

Located at 300 N. Roxboro Street, the Main Library’s reopening on Tuesday at 2 p.m. was met with enthusiasm, to say the least. Renovations began in 2017, and the facility was scheduled to reopen in April 2020, but (like most things last year) COVID-19 put a wrench in that plan.

But finally, after more than four years, the library doors opened to a line of people ready to enter the building right at 2 p.m., which provided a pretty clear visual representation of the excitement within the community. The energy inside the building was palpable. Parents with their children browsed the extensive kids book section; bookworms with towers of books in their hands wandered the entire floor’s worth of fiction. Engineers gawked at the new 3D printers, and students quickly scattered to desks with their laptops and textbooks. 

For Robert Meeks, the day had been a long time coming. He grew up in Durham and as a kid spent a lot of time in the Main Library. Now, he has a son of his own. When he heard the library was remodeling, he knew he wanted to come to give his son that same experience.

“It’s kind of eye-opening just walking around here, and all of the work they’ve done to make it more modern,” Meeks said. “They put so much thought into it.”

Desmond Smith, a Duke University graduate student, learned on Instagram early Tuesday that the library was reopening and jumped at the opportunity to come and do work. He chose one of the more secluded workspaces, but he said on days when it’s less crowded, his go-to spot will likely be the new outdoor balcony seating.

“I’ve never been to a library reopening before, but there’s so many different people here, which made me really excited. That’s what I look for when I’m going out and looking for places to study,” Smith said. 

Library Director Tammy Baggett said it’s the enthusiasm of community members that makes the building what it is. Many of the attendees that arrived today, she said, are familiar faces who would visit the library before it closed. It’s a community on the precipice of coming back together.

“They’re all so anxious to get in the door, and it’s so exciting to see these children coming in and enjoying the space finally,” Baggett said. “We are equally happy to have them as they are to be here.”

Baggett knows that the building is impressive but overwhelming. So, the first priority is ensuring that patrons become acclimated to the space and remain safe while inside. Every attendee was screened for COVID symptoms upon entering. 

“We want it to be a destination every time that they come in, and I think every time they do, they will find what they’re looking for.”

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.