GAINESVILLE – The Hall County Library System’s main branch is about to undergo a major facelift.
“It’s not what it was when I was growing up,” Library Director Lisa MacKinney said Monday evening at the first of two scheduled community meetings about the library’s future. “Libraries have changed.”
“That’s one of the things we’re really, really good at, is adapting to serve current needs,” MacKinney added.
MacKinney was responding to a question about the need and wisdom in spending a large amount of money ($1.8-million of SPLOST VII funds, $400,000 of impact fees and a possible $2-million state grant) in an era when many people get their books and research material online and at home.
To those over 40-years old the days of the library being the only place to find information are a distant memory. “Let’s Google it” has seemingly replaced “Let’s go to the library” as the elixir for information starvation in our wired culture.
“It’s not your daddy’s library,” MacKinney said with a laugh.
“Libraries have developed into community hubs; our meeting room use goes through the roof and that’s something that hasn’t always been a big library service,” she said.
“Our children’s programs go up every year. That role we play in early literacy…has become more critical.”
“We haven’t done away with ‘print’; we’re just adding additional services.” MacKinney also mentioned the passport services offered through the library as another change from the library of a generation ago.
“We’re just changing; we’re not dying by any stretch. Our attendance was up last year.”
Architect Jeff Crocker said all options were under consideration as the library looks to the future. “In shaking this box up and really doing some things different, because of some security issues, because of some design issues, we’re going to look at every angle.”
Crocker said relocating the main entrance was possible; outdoor seating was being considered; keeping or removing the massive spiral staircase that circumscribes the elevator is under discussion; doubling the size of the meeting room and making the building ADA compliant are being examined. “Nothing’s off the table,” Crocker said.
Crocker also mentioned the growing need to assure the building offered a secure setting. “Every building we design these days, you’re always thinking about security and safety.”
MacKinney agreed with Crocker on the need to upgrade building security. “The children’s entrance is not secure. We’ve had kids dart out into the parking lot. Anyone who uses this library has to pretty much walk through the children’s area and there are some adults who are not supposed to be around children.”
“So we would like to secure that on a couple of different levels,” she explained.
In addition, the building was built before fire code regulations required an automatic sprinkler system and that upgrade is at the top of the list of construction projects once the remodeling begins.
And then there is the matter of parking…or more accurately, the lack thereof.
The two dozen spots available at present are far short of what is needed. But there might be an answer available across the street from the library.
In August, 2016, the City of Gainesville announced they had purchased the entire block that is the current site of the Turner, Wood and Smith Insurance. City leaders speculated at that time that the single story building directly across from the library might be demolished and replaced by a parking garage.
That possibility excites library officials who would like to see Hall County and Gainesville collaborate on getting that project underway as soon as possible.
Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said from the audience when that topic was raised, “We understand that parking is an issue and we’re going to have to address that, so we are working with the city and will hopefully come to some sort of agreement.”
A second community meeting has been scheduled for the purpose of gathering suggestions and concerns. It will be on Wednesday, December 6, at 10:30 a.m. in the main library branch in Gainesville on Main Street. The public is invited to attend.
MacKinney said those unable to attend can leave their thoughts and ideas with library officials by submitting them online. Click here to do so.