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The old Meramec Valley library was a bit like a one-room schoolhouse compared to its successor.

Formerly the St. Louis County Library's smallest branch, it was housed in the building for Fenton City Hall

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Fenton residents finally get their own up-to-date library on about 6.5 acres of land. It includes a fancy Discovery Zone for children, an outdoor reading patio and walkway, separate study rooms, a large meeting room and a business center. 

Because the old library was 2,690 square feet, new books were purchased to help fill the shelves in the 21,000-square-foot space. 

In fact, 22,172 books were added, not including materials such as CDs and DVDs. That's almost one per person (25,856) in that library's service area.

On a recent visit, the space's color-changing lights hanging in its front windows were blue and yellow, in honor of the hockey Blues.

Because of constant rain, landscaping was not finished last week, but the inside was stocked with material and new computers were set up. A robin's egg blue and accents of green complement plaid chairs and what director Kristen Sorth says is the earthy, Seattle vibe that marks the branch's design. Wood-look tiles are distinctive to the restrooms and some other areas.

"It's the branch with the most green space," Sorth says. Large glass windows allow patrons to take in the outdoors, and on that day, one could watch a small bird trying to chase off a hawk. Despite the library's name and location near a woody creek bed, it's not in a flood plain, she says.

A huge children's area is walled off (with a door that can close if noise becomes an issue). 

The Discovery Zone evokes a bit of the Magic House, with interactive learning games, magnetic walls with gears, a pneumatic tub maze and a build-your-own car race track, which declares the contestants' times. A 250-square-foot play house has kitchen equipment, play food and even toy dryer sheets.

The new branch cost $5.6 million, paid for by proceeds from the 2012 tax initiative approved by voters. Mackey Mitchell Architects and Bond Architects were the designers. 

The library, at 1501 San Simeon Way, will now have Sunday hours (1-5 p.m.). It is on the spot of a former garden and landscaping company. 

The Meramec Valley branch is the 17th location in the library system to be renovated or replaced as part of its master plan. The Mid-County branch in Clayton is expected to open in August.

Jane Henderson is the book editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.