The East Hall area could get its first library in more than a decade as Hall County applies for state funding.
The East Hall Library closed in 2011 after the effects of the 2008 financial crisis caused major budget cuts. Its old building at 2434 Old Cornelia Hwy now houses a county clinic. The closest libraries for residents in the East Hall area are either the Gainesville Branch or the North Hall Tech Center.
“Ever since the East Hall Library closed during the Great Recession, it’s literally been, as we call it, a library black hole out there,” said Adrianne Junius, assistant director of the Hall County Library System.
Hall County is applying for a $2 million grant from the Georgia Public Library System, which would be matched by county SPLOST dollars, Hall County Financial Services Director Dena Bosten said. The $4 million total would cover both the construction and land acquisition costs.
The library would be about 6,000 square feet, which is comparable to the size of the Murrayville Branch or the North Hall Tech Center. It would contain 14 computers, 17,000 books, a multi-purpose room, storytime room, study rooms and 50 seats for the public, according to the county’s grant application description. It would also have a mobile computer lab with laptops, similar to what the Gainesville Branch has now, Junius said, which gives them better flexibility for events.
“We can go into a program space and pop up those laptops and do computer classes or job finding sessions,” Junius said.
If approved in the state budget next May, the county would expect construction to begin in November 2022, though the county does not yet know where the library would be located.
The library system has several guidelines for how library sites are chosen including accessibility to the community, fit with adjacent properties and proximity to an area’s geographic or traffic center.
East Hall is one of the poorest parts of the county with about 91% of students at White Sulphur Elementary classified as economically disadvantaged, according to 2020 Hall County Schools data. East Hall High School classified 67% of students as economically disadvantaged in 2020, according to schools data.
The library could provide the highest speed internet access in the area, Junius said. They would get internet access funding through E-rate, a federally regulated program that provides big discounts for libraries and schools to provide high speed internet.
New libraries have a harder time getting approved for this grant, Junius said, because it gives priority to projects at a library system’s headquarters or renovations for existing buildings. In 2018, the Hall County Library System received a grant to renovate the Gainesville Branch, which is the system’s headquarters. The system applied for this grant to build a new East Hall Library last year as well.
Building a new library in this area would allow the system to host its own programming events rather than use other county or city facilities, Junius said.
“There will definitely be dedicated space for those larger performances and big programs that the public can come and see (at the potential new library),” she said.
The system started doing in-person events outdoors this summer, after a long stretch without in-person programming because of COVID-19 concerns. But it plans to start hosting indoor programming again this fall, Junius said. It will use the East Hall Community Center for storytime events in that area, she said.
Once approved, it will involve the public in the planning process, Junius said.
“Libraries are ever-changing,” she said. “Five years ago, … makers spaces were really big, and today more study space is the big thing, so we want to make sure that what our East Hall residents need, we’re doing the best we can to provide.”