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How Gainesville library will look different when it reopens
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Clayton Dillingham, right, and Neil Byrd run data cables Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in the former Turner, Wood and Smith building. The Gainesville Library will be closed March 11-31 so staff and the library collections can move across the street to the former Turner, Wood and Smith building. The temporary library (across the street) will open April 1. The library building will be renovated and is expected to reopen in summer 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

When the library in Gainesville celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, it will have a new look.

The Main Street branch of the Hall County Library System will be closing Monday, March 11, for renovations. On April 1, a temporary library will open across the street at the former Turner, Wood & Smith building at 100 Brenau Ave.

Because that building is only about half the size of the library, about a third of the library’s collection, which will include some materials that also are available at Hall County’s other libraries, will need to be placed in storage, according to library director Lisa MacKinney.

The genealogy and local history departments will be temporarily moved to the North Hall Technology Center, she said.

The renovated library is expected to reopen in July or August of 2020.

MacKinney said the library, which has not been updated since 2000, is in need of some repairs and renovations.

“We’re incredibly excited. This is a building that’s just about to turn 50 years old. … There’s quite a bit of stuff — furniture, pipes, wiring — there’s a lot here that was here when it opened in 1970,” MacKinney said. “It’s due for a face-lift.”

The renovations will add about 10,000 square feet to the nearly 27,760-square-foot building. The library will get a new entryway, a larger children’s area, a storytime room, study rooms, improved security in the genealogy area and a new meeting room.

MacKinney said that because many items in the genealogy area are not replaceable, the area needs tighter security. The space in the renovated area will be enclosed and lockable and will have a service desk.

The new design for the building’s exterior will feature double-pane windows and a more modern look.

The temporary library will have a storytime room and space for smaller children’s programs, but the summer reading program activity will take place off-site at Fair Street School, MacKinney said.

Mark Pettitt, chairman of the Hall County Library System Board of Trustees, said one of the main goals of the renovation is improving the children’s section.

“Currently, the children’s area is kind of right there at the front door, and that’s just not very safe,” Pettitt said. “So, we’re going to take that, isolate it a little more and have its own dedicated space with a storytime room.”

Adrianne Junius, youth services director for the Hall County Library System, said the larger, renovated space will allow the library to have more materials for both children and teens, especially more nonfiction books that students can use for schoolwork, she said.

“Our collection right now does not reflect what the population of Gainesville should have, so we’ll be able to hold more of those titles everyone needs,” Junius said.

New study rooms will help students meeting with tutors or for group projects, she said.

Another highlight is the new storytime room, which will be separate from the community meeting space.

“That way, adult services can have a program, and we can have a story time at the same time. That has not been the case in the past,” she said. “We are also hoping to put a craft area in our storytime room to have all those popular programs and have all the supplies there readily available.”

MacKinney said staff from the Gainesville library also will work at the temporary location. If that location ends up being overstaffed, employees may be transferred to other branches that are seeing more traffic, she said.

The $4 million in renovations will be partly funded by a $2 million grant the county received last year from the University System of Georgia. The other half of the costs will be covered by city of Gainesville impact fees and special purpose local option sales tax dollars from the county.

While the library is operated by the county, the building is owned by the city of Gainesville. So is the former Turner, Wood & Smith building, which the city will lease to the library system for $1 a month. Turner, Wood & Smith, a local insurance company, relocated to a new building on Community Way near the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in January.

The city hopes to eventually build a parking deck at 100 Brenau Ave.

Renovations at the library have been planned for several years. In 2017, renovations were put aside when the county ranked fourth in priority for state library funding but was not able to secure the money. The library was able to get the grant the next year in May 2018, and plans started moving forward.  

“It’s an important project for the county. We’ve been working on it for several years. … I’m thankful to see us finally breaking ground,” Pettitt said.