On September 20, 1997, the Central Arkansas Library System debuted its new main library building. The building had previously been the Fones Brothers Warehouse building and was repurposed by the Polk Stanley Yeary architectural firm.
The grand opening festivities included storytellers for children throughout the day as well as various special activities. Linked balloons made to resemble bookworms greeted visitors to the front entrance.
The move and expansion were the dream of then-CALS Director Bobby Roberts. The previous library space had limited parking and was in a confined (and confining) space with no room for expansion.
To prepare for the move from the old location at 7th and Louisiana Streets, the library’s main branch had closed in July. They had to inventory the existing materials in anticipation of the move. The actual transport of the 250,000 books was accomplished in three 16-hour work days by the 65 member staff.
The project cost $13 million dollars, most of which came from a millage approved by voters. The 200 seat auditorium was funded by overdue book fines and areas for the employees were financed by a patron bequest.
At the time it opened, the fifth floor remained undeveloped.
Since September 1997, the fifth floor has been developed and CALS has ultimately developed over one city block in what is now known as Library Square.