After nine years of hard work, dedication and determination, a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony were held to celebrate the completion of the newly constructed Knoxville Public Library.

A substantial amount of community members gazed in wonderment as they stepped into the modern library, complete with a spacious community room, high ceilings, large windows, designated reading areas for younger children and adolescents, study and conference rooms, computers, a genealogy room and office space for library staff. A giving tree decorates the wall to the entrance of the library, commemorating donors who made the dream of a new library a reality.

“I know all of you have heard the phrase ‘it takes a village,’” said campaign co-chair Pennie Sommar. “Well, I think in this case, it took more than a village. It took a village of believers. We fought a lot of obstacles where people thought libraries were going to be a thing of the past … but we provide a lot of need for our community, and we’re proud of that.”

In addition to Sommar, Mayor Brian Hatch, Library Board President Dave Garcia, Campaign Co-Chair Harv Sprafka and State Librarian Michael Scott thanked donors, volunteers, the community and all those involved with the project.

“I hope people realize how big a deal this is for the community, and how great it is,” said Hatch. “There are so many times that we are often talking about trying to find positive things in the community. This is one of those. This is one of those great, wonderful things for Knoxville.”

The project began in 2010 with a Needs Assessment. Two years later, while the original Carnegie library was celebrating its 100th anniversary, the fundraising campaign for the expansion project was launched.

After a bond was passed for the cost of renovation and expansion, the Capital Campaign was launched to raise additional funds. Construction of the $4.25 million dollar project began after a groundbreaking ceremony in April 2018, and after 493 construction days, was completed this month.

“We have been waiting for so long, and we’re so excited to use the library,” said community member Elly Shaw. “It’s huge, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Clara Shaw, 7, Elly Shaw’s daughter, is excited to use the colorful chairs and have her own space to sit down and read a book.

During renovations, a pear tree that was planted in 1990 regretfully had to be cut down. However, Library Director Roslin Thompson found a way to preserve the tree with an unusual encounter.

Onboard a flight to California with her family, Thompson happened to sit next to woodworker Jacob Howe, of Oskaloosa. Thompson began a conversation with Howe based on the book he was reading, and she told Howe about the pear tree the library was hoping to preserve. After discovering Howe was a local woodworker, he transformed the pear tree into hand-made, wooden bowls to give to donors and volunteers of the project. Thompson also stated benches will be completed soon.

“I believe the library is the heartbeat of the community,” said Thompson. “It’s tremendous that we have all of this support from the community. I am blown away, and it all came together beautifully.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at or by calling the Pella newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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