Reby Cary Youth Library grand opening held Aug. 14

Credit for photos: Daniel Poole/KAI

The new Reby Cary Youth Library in Fort Worth is no ordinary public library. With its activity stations, bright colors, interactive art installation and cozy cubbies, local architecture firm KAI purposefully designed the library to serve children, teens and their caregivers, as well as honor late Fort Worth civil rights pioneer and educator Reby Cary.

A grand opening celebration for the $5.49 million library was held on Aug. 14 and featured outdoor games, music performances, story times, craft activities and more.

Special guests at the ribbon cutting included Mayor Mattie Parker, District 8 City Councilman Chris Nettles, Library Director Manya Shorr and former City Councilmember Kelly Allen Gray. Faith Ellis, the daughter of Reby Cary, also participated in the ceremony.

“In a city full of young families, Reby Cary Youth Library exemplifies what Fort Worth is all about when it comes to supporting parents and kiddos – a safe, innovative place for growth, exploration and learning,” Parker said. “I know our Fort Worth families are looking forward to having fun in this new space, my own family included.”

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KAI Enterprises provided architectural and interior design services on the project and coordinated the civil, landscape, structural/mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering, fire protection, audio-visual, lighting, technology and cost estimating services through various teaming partners. The general contractor on the project was FPI Builders of Fort Worth.

Named after local African American educator Reby Cary who spent his life dedicated to learning as well as breaking down racial divides, the Reby Cary Youth Library includes amenities such as a large outdoor sensory garden to encourage neighbors to gather at the library, a maker space which utilizes technology for creative activities, and multiple study rooms. Instead of tall-stacked bookshelves and hardback chairs typical of a traditional library, the library has lower shelving and seating designed to encourage families to read together.

“We are so excited to open the doors on this new library, and we know Fort Worth families are going to love it,” said Library Director Manya Shorr. “The laser-focus on children and youth will allow the Reby Cary Youth Library to go above and beyond the excellent work all our libraries provide to the community. It is fitting that Reby Cary’s name is on the building, as not only was he a barrier-breaking pioneer in so many aspects, but his priority was children and preparing them for bright futures.”

During the project’s design development phase, KAI’s team immersed itself into the community to gather public input in an effort to blend the building with the historical elements of the surrounding neighborhood, the company said in a news release.

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“With the West Meadowbrook neighborhood evolving through an influx of young couples and families, the neighborhood lacked facilities specifically catering to children,” said KAI President Darren L. James, FAIA. “We envisioned a library that was truly transformative for the underserved neighborhood and encouraged children to embrace learning and take pride in who they are and who they could become, much like the library’s namesake.”

The design team worked closely with award-winning artist Creative Machines to create an interactive public art installation suspended from the ceiling called “Only Connect.” The remarkable installation is made up of more than 20,000 glass marbles and cascading LED lights. Visitors can manipulate the artwork’s lighted colors and patterns through the simple touch of a button and sensor points distributed throughout the library.

“The Reby Cary Youth Library is our dream come true. This project is the epitome of what can happen when neighborhood residents, city officials and the private sector come together for the good of an entire city. KAI heard the voices of residents which has resulted in this stellar community hub for our youth and their families. I can’t wait to see it filled with young minds exploring, finding their voice in a space they can call their own,” said former City Councilmember Kelly Allen Gray.