New Melrose Branch Library opens

Facility offers an extensive slate of programs and services for both young and old.


Newly constructed Melrose Branch Library

by S. Rotan Hale

After three years of planning and construction, Melrose Branch Library now has a new home. City and state officials cut the ribbon to much fanfare, at the grand opening (July 22) of the new facility at 2502 Melrose Avenue in the west wing of Goodwill Industries.

“We’re really excited about opening the new library in this area.” said Sheila Umberger, director, City Libraries who spoke of the many amenities offered at the new branch.

She spoke proudly of one colorful and very kid-friendly area–the STEAM Lab.

Melrose Branch Library STEAM Lab

“This room is a very flexible area that we added math to making it our STEAM Lab,” she explained.

Another area housed in the space is the Business Center that she referred to as being “pre-entrepreneurial–designed for individuals with hopes of starting a business.” The space is equipped with teleconferencing capability to help connect people on various levels. Additionally it serves as an open door to Goodwill’s job training center that offers instruction in resume writing and other resources related to securing gainful employment.

Melrose Branch Library Business Center

“The resources center is really our connection, that’s where we link together (with the library),” said Bruce Phipps, Goodwill Industries, president and CEO.

“Our opportunity there is to allow people to do job search and really explore their career path. We can assist them with technology if they’ve got skills that they need to continue to advance. The link right here to the library is so that if people with kids are on computers set up for them, then parents can do their own self-directed job search on computers provided for them.”

Bruce said the space (nearly 15,000 sq. ft.) was not being utilized, so several years ago the area was identified as an opportunity to relocate the library and “invigorate the community.” “We are really happy to be a partner with this project.

The relocation of the library involved the transfer and reorganization of thousands of books, CDs and other equipment from it’s previous site on Salem Turnpike that closed in June.

City and state officials from left: Senator John Edwards, Mayor Sherman Lea, City Library Director Sheila Umberger, Councilwomen Trish Board and Anita Price join in cutting the ribbon to the new Melrose Branch Library, Monday, July 22, 2019.

Among the city officials joining in cutting the ribbon were Mayor Sherman Lea and Councilwoman Anita Price.

“We have got a gem and it’s ours right here in the neighborhood on the corner of Melrose,” exclaimed Price who was overjoyed at the new facility.

“We have a dedicated area for our youth and actually there is something for everyone here and that’s going to benefit our children because that’s what it should be about.”

Councilman Bill Bestpitch also spoke highly of the collaboration regarding the City and Goodwill in bringing the $4-million project to fruition.

“I think this effort is so important, not just because of education but in terms of what it says about the city’s investment in the Melrose Avenue corridor and the northwest community in general,” said Bestpitch. “I think it’s really important that we continue to look for ways to make this one of the best parts of Roanoke.”

Bestpitch, along with Senator John Edwards and Vice Mayor Joe Cobb are all members of Kiwanis Club. As a major partner, the club currently heads a funding drive for the development of the Kiwanis Centennial Playground, a high-tech “inclusive playground” designed to “encourage active play for all ages and all abilities to build a sense of community.”

“It’s really good to be here and watch the library come to life… its absolutely gorgeous,” said author Monique Fields, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama native brought in by the Library Foundation to be part of the grand celebration. Fields gave a presentation on her book “Honeysmoke.” The picture book for children, with vividly colorful illustrations by Yesenia Moises, is about a biracial girl who discovers her color.

“Reading is what leads to good writing,” said Monique during her presentation delivered before a gathering of approximately 60 middle school students bused in for the occasion. “I know that’s what children need to do and so I’m going to try to inspire them to become good writers.”

From left, Goodwill CEO Bruce Phipps, Author Monique Fields, City Libraries Director Sheila Umberger, and Councilwoman Anita Price at the opening.

The new facility offers an extensive slate of programs and services for both young and old–already scheduled through August that are designed to enhance not just the area’s residents but the entire community.

The library’s hours of operation are: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10 am – 6 pm, Wednesday 10 am – 8 pm and Friday and Saturday 10 am – 5 pm. The facility is closed Sundays..