It’s no secret. Patrons of the main Hall County Library in Gainesville, Georgia, are spreading the word about its youthful appearance. Last year, the board voted to renovate. Prison inmates moved books across the street to an abandoned grocery store, and work began. When COVID hit, the county libraries closed. So, the timing turned out to be perfect.
Constructed in 1933, the building resembled more of a storm shelter than a library. Its pneumatic doors didn’t always open fully, and its signature spiral staircase leaned a bit. Well-trod paths through the carpet led the way to the most popular sections.
Tuesday afternoon, I toured the almost-complete library. It’s scheduled to open Monday. I took dozens of photos because of the amazing changes they’d made to accommodate the architectural updates. Here’s what they did:
- Shored up the spiral staircase, and added swirly wallpaper, modern lighting, and durable flooring. Believe it or not, that spiral staircase rated #1 on the must-keep items from patron surveys.
- Addressed the germ issue by creating a quarantine room. Returned books are placed in hefty gray tubs, which are stacked under a big Day 1 wall sign. On the second day, they’re shoved under a Day 2 sign, then moved under a Day 3 sign the next day. On the fourth day, they’re liberated, wiped down with a germ-killing concoction, and returned to circulation.
- Delighted the couriers by building the much-needed administrative offices ABOVE the back parking lot. Now, book deliveries can be managed in a covered area. The staff is also thrilled because their parking area will now be shaded from the relentless Georgia sun.
- Added a large storytelling room in response to patrons complaining about the noise level when children gathered. Now, storytellers don’t have to say, “Shh, you’re in a library.” In addition, designers added a sink, counter, and round tables so the children can enjoy crafts.
- Secured the genealogy and archives department. It’s now housed in a large, airy room with plenty of tables to spread out research.
- Enlarged the Young Adult section and added its own information and check-out desk. There are plenty of connections for the teens’ many devices and an abundance of cool high tops, tables, chair/desks, and couches. All fabric is water resistant and will be swabbed with that anti-germ concoction each night.
- Added a massive meeting room. This makes the Friends of the Hall County Library System happy because we now have a beautiful space to host fundraisers. In addition, six meeting rooms (ranging in size from four to 10 seats) are now scattered throughout the two-story, steel-beamed structure, which also serves as a storm safe place.
- Turned a dark hallway into a well-lit, curvy space to display art. This is the only section that didn’t get sponsored by a donor. Contact Adrianne Junius, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re interested in sponsoring this beautiful hallway.
I applaud all those who had a hand in making this library such a beautiful, patron-centered place to relax, learn, and have fun. At this time, visits are limited to one hour, and the meeting rooms are closed. But, the future is as bright for this renovated structure as the morning sun streaming through the new floor-to-ceiling windows.
Has your local library implemented any new changes during this pandemic down time? If so, could you please share? We’re always looking for new ideas.