VERNAL — An estimated 300 volunteers turned out Saturday to help move 50,000 books from the old Uintah County Library into the new one.

And they did it all by hand, forming a human chain that took book after book after book from the shelves in one building and put them on the shelves in the other.

"In the next week we'll move another almost 100,000 books," said library director Sam Passey, who called the turnout for Saturday's event "very exciting."

The old library was built in 1958 and underwent two expansions to bring it up to almost 9,000 square feet. But Passey said the building's electrical system was maxed out and there was no more room to expand the library's collection.

"We've outgrown it a long time ago," said Uintah County Commissioner Darlene Burns.

Commissioners were able to secure a grant for $5 million and a low-interest loan for $3 million from the state's Permanent Community Impact Fund Board to pay for the project. Those dollars come from mineral lease monies paid to the state for oil and natural gas development in Utah.

"We funded (the library construction) totally through mineral lease money," Burns said.

"We stress education in Uintah County," she added, "and this library just goes hand in hand with the education we want our kids to have."

The new 32,000-square-foot library will be more than just a "warehouse for books," Passey said. He hopes it will become a gathering place for the community.

To that end, the facility includes a multipurpose room with space for up to 250 people, a smaller classroom and a special area for younger readers.

Members of the community and members of Passey's staff said they can't wait for the doors of the new library to open Aug. 6.

"I love the library," said librarian Melinda Barlow, surveying the scores of people passing books between the two buildings.

"To see people who love the library, as a librarian, I am just overwhelmed," she said.

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