Kingsport Library Renovation- How did we get here?

The Kingsport Public Library has been located at 400 Broad Street since it moved into the former post office building in 1961. The library’s roots can be found in the creation of the Kingsport Book Club in 1919 and it’s formal organization in 1921. By 1928, the club was ready to turn the collection of over 6,000 books and 30 magazine subscriptions over to the city of Kingsport and create one of the first municipal libraries in Sullivan County. The Kingsport Public Library has been in many locations through the years, but found itself moving into an old post office building in 1961. 1986 brought an expansion of the Children’s area and 1993 saw the greatest library expansion yet with the addition of the current auditorium and the areas above it along with expanding the back of the library over the old loading ramp.

In 2009, library leadership recognized the library was beginning to outgrow itself and needed to look into the future to how library services and community needs would change. An initial space needs and feasibility study was conducted by Library Planning Associates. Key findings included the need for increase in library space including the addition of a children’s program room, increased collection size, and additional multipurpose spaces within the library. By 2011, a renovation and building plan was created using the space needs and feasibility studies as guidance. The plan carried an estimated cost of $12 million and would increase the library by 21,000 square feet. The library leadership spent the next few years working with city leaders to locate funding to support the proposed project. The decision was made to split the project into multiple phases and the first part was completed in 2017 with the renovation of the Children’s area. In 2018, the second phase started with the enclosure of the exterior colonnade next to Glen Bruce Park, adding 4,800 square feet. Ten years after the original space needs report, in 2019, an updated facilities assessment was completed along side an updated library strategic plan.  Key themes from the assessment included a need for a larger children’s area, dedicated children’s programming space, a lack of study rooms, and a new elevator. With costs rising almost daily, the library and city was no longer going to be able to allocate enough funds for a library expansion and went back to the drawing table. In 2022, the city of Kingsport announced it would allocate $6 million dollars in ARPA funding towards the renovation of the library.

Current library renovation designs have moved through multiple versions and adjustments through consulting key stakeholders such as library staff, library commission members, and the Friends of the Kingsport Library, bringing the library to the cusp of it’s first major renovation in over 30 years.

I invite you to join us on this journey as we transform Kingsport Public Library into a library of the future.

Casey Applebaum
Assistant Library Manager
Kingsport Public Library