“The children are always out on the street playing, exposed to all the dangers there,” Norma Cruz, area resident and mother, told the DMN. “Why not have a place where their parents can take them?
Over the years, residents of the Vickery Meadow neighborhood of Dallas have turned to nonprofits and faith groups to get library-like services such as a computer lab or language lessons. The Vickery Meadow campus of the nonprofit Literacy Achieves, which teaches English literacy, provides a snapshot of the neighborhood. Executive Director Sarah Papert said about half of the students speak Spanish while the other half speak other languages. Last school year, the nonprofit’s roster contained students from fifty-two countries.
The Vickery Meadow branch library — number thirty in the Dallas Public Library system — is set to be one of the city’s most expensive libraries, according to the Dallas Morning News. The cost is expected to be more than $8 million, a price tag covered by a bonds and a private grant. And city officials say the building will be designed and staffed to serve thousands of people who together speak more than 30 languages and dialects.
Neighbors say the library’s promise can’t be measured in books or dollar signs. Vickery Meadow lacks a city community center and amenities sometimes taken for granted elsewhere. The dense area has had trouble with crime near the future library site. And many residents don’t have computers or internet access in their apartments, said nonprofit leaders in the area.
“The children are always out on the street playing, exposed to all the dangers there,” Norma Cruz, area resident and mother, told the DMN. “Why not have a place where their parents can take them?”
In recent months, Dallas leaders and the architects hired by the city have been taking inventory of the neighborhood’s unique needs. The Vickery Meadow branch will have a staff of sixteen, compared with eight to twelve at most branches. Jo Giudice, Dallas’s library director, hopes to hire from the neighborhood and cover the most common languages. “Language is not a barrier to us,” Giudice said. “A smile is universal.”
The future library site is a vacant 3.6-acre site at Park Lane and Ridgecrest Road. Dallas has owned the land for nearly a decade, but the 2008 financial crisis and recession delayed plans to build the library, according to City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who has represented the area since 2013.
A little over a year ago, Dallas voters approved a $1.05 billion bond package that included $7.7 million for the Vickery Meadow branch. It will also receive $254,000 in park funds for a play area and a $752,000 Crystal Charity Ball grant for the children’s and teens’ sections, Giudice said.
Giudice, the libraries director, said much of the private grant money secured with the help of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library will fund youth programming that the city wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, such as coding classes. The grant will also pay for equipment for those classes, including iPads, STEM kits and gaming systems.
“I almost get teary thinking about it — that we may hit on something to connect with a child, and they blossom,” Giudice. “It could be just playing a video game brings them out of their shell a little bit or encourages a love of math. Or a coding class, and all of a sudden we have a computer genius.”
In 2017-2018 Literacy Achieves, served 1,116 adults and 322 children.