The reveal date is set for the grand opening of the Forsyth County Central Library after a $27 million renovation.
The doors are expected to open on Aug. 31, said Deputy County Manager Damon Sanders-Pratt.
“We’re fairly close to a project completing that the public has really wanted to get back into,” Sanders-Pratt said. “We’re looking forward to giving it back to them.
The library closed in October 2014. As part of the renovations, the section of the building built in the 1950s was torn down and about 13,000 square feet were added to the 1980s section, which was gutted. The new library is about 103,000 square feet.
“If you look at it now from the street, you see one building, whereas before if you looked, you saw a little squat ’50s building behind the ’80s building,” Sanders-Pratt said.
During a recent tour of the library, Sanders-Pratt said there are still several things to be completed before the library is ready for the public, including some carpet replacement and work on a monumental stair that has lighted handrails.
“We’re still moving books into the North Carolina Room, and the staff needs to be moved in,” he said. “Technology is still being finished up so that they have phone access and internet access and security.”
People who were frequent visitors before the renovation won’t find a lot to recognize.
Prior to the renovations, people could smoke outside, but now the library is a smoke-free campus.
New technology is on every floor, staff offices are throughout the facility, the auditorium has more seats, and two sky monitors have been installed to provide natural light.
Sanders-Pratt said the sky monitors give the library a more open and expansive appearance.
Parking will still be available under the back of the building and along the streets, and the county has a large parking lot across the street near a gas station.
There are three public access floors. A fourth floor, which is accessible from the parking underneath the library, is just for staff.
As people approach the library from Fifth Street, they will see an event lawn to the east and a “reading garden,” just west of the entry walkway. The reading garden features a piece of art shaped like a book, benches cut from granite that was harvested from the former 1950s library entrance and a circular rock path.
The first floor includes the children’s area, offering counters and shelves at heights for children, a storytime and crafts room, study rooms, custom seating, technology tables and study room. Other highlights on the first floor are the “Training Bridge” computer-literacy training room, a main public computer area, the circulation desk, an auditorium with more than 280 seats, a demonstration kitchen and four meeting rooms with technology available for checkout. One of the rooms offers sound recording software.
The library also has a sliding divider that can be locked so that only the auditorium and café can be accessed after regular library hours.
Sanders-Pratt said the main traffic artery in the building on the first floor will be called “the marketplace,” where popular literature and DVDs will be housed.
Offerings on the second floor include, the North Carolina Room for historical and genealogical research, a gallery-type space, the Teen Zone, makerspace featuring 3-D printers and the administration offices.
The third floor includes the main fiction and nonfiction collections, a meeting room, a covered terrace with views to the north and the Forsyth Reading Room, featuring an electric fireplace and periodicals.
Technology is a key part of the new library.
Makerspace is a new room that will offer high-tech devices as well as low-tech equipment such as a sewing machine.
“We’ll have two 3-D printers and a large monitor for instructional programs,” said Billy King, operations manager for the Central Library. “Later on, we’ll add some other technologies.”
The library’s auditorium also has high-tech equipment, including a new projection and sound system, and all the furniture in the library is high-tech.
“Most of the tables have different ports and outlets for charging your phone or for a USB port for a computer,” King said. “They are spread throughout the building.”
People will have the opportunity to try out new electronic devices in the technology “petting zoo.”
New to the Central Library, although some Forsyth County libraries already have them, are RFID checkout stations, which use radio frequency for checking out books and keeping track of inventory.
“In the children’s room, there’s a large screen on the wall — a touch screen — that’s interactive for learning,” King said. “That’s provided by Hatch Corp.”
Another new device is Launchpad, a pre-loaded learning tablet for children that can be checked out.
“There are apps on the tablet that make it fun for learning,” King said, “things like ABCs and numbers.”
The library now has more than 100 public computers. People walk in and can sign up to use some computers or reserve other computers for research. There is also a new classroom set up for computer training.
People can also reserve a new sound production room that is soundproofed and has equipment for sound recordings.
The library has a number of meeting rooms with monitors and video-conferencing capabilities.
“All the rooms are built on the concept of collaboration,” King said.
A highlight of the Teen Zone for teenagers is a green screen and theater lighting for creating videos.
“In the same room there are three large screens for teens to play games as well,” King said.
Available game systems include Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii.
The library has also added a second digital microfilm reader in its history room.
“You can scan articles from the newspaper, from microfilm and email them or save them to your USB card,” King said.
He added that overall security in the library has been upgraded with modern cameras and security gates at the door.
“If a book has not been checked out, the alarm will go off,” King said.
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