After three years of waiting, book lovers in Laurel, Maryland finally have a brand-new library to call their own.
The Laurel Branch Library on 7th Street held its grand opening ceremony today.
"It's amazing. We've been watching the construction for months and months and looking at the plans online and that sort of thing, so to see it finally open is just wonderful," said visitor Sarah Llewellyn, who brought her one-year-old daughter Ellie.
"I'm excited, too, because they have reading programs for little kids, so I can come here and read to her."
The new library replaces an old one that was built in 1965 and had asbestos problems. While the new one was being built, Laurel residents had been using a temporary library on Sandy Spring Road.
The new library is 31,000 square feet and features over 50,000 books, DVDs and magazines. It has a dinosaur-themed "Children’s Room" that includes dinosaur replicas, toys and an interactive SMART table.
There are also a number of environmentally-friendly features in the building: solar panels on the roof, electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot and a living plant wall in the study room that helps purify the air.
Michael Gannon, chief operating officer for the Prince George's County library system, said he wants the library to be a "destination."
"It's full of books because studies still show that children need to learn with physical books before they learn to read," Gannon said.
Visitors today expressed excitement at finally being able to explore the new building.
"I'm very excited. I've been waiting for this for a long time. It's so much bigger than the old one, and it's a lot closer to our house. So it'll be really nice to be able to walk or bike here," said visitor Grace Pollock.
Another young visitor, Catherine Norton, said she plans to come back "a lot."
"Everything looks so nice and there's a ton of books. I love reading," she said.
For local author Richard Friend, who has written a book called Lost Laurel about the history of Laurel, today had special significance.
"I used to work at the library years ago and I was hoping to finish my book before the old one was torn down, but I said I'm going to actually come here and shelve books like I used to. This is me shelving my book for a change," Friend said.