Brookhaven residents have differing views about where is the best location for a new library branch that is long overdue.
After a plan to include the new library in a renovation of the Brookhaven MARTA station fell through, DeKalb County officials have gone back to the drawing board to figure out where to build the Brookhaven branch.
At a meeting July 18, DeKalb County officials invited residents to the DeKalb County library in Brookhaven on North Druid Hills Road to share an update on the project and to listen to suggestions from the public.
“I wanted to make sure we did this in a public way … so that it’s consistent with the priorities of the people who are going to be served by it,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader.
The county had previously planned to incorporate the Brookhaven library branch into a transit-oriented development at the MARTA station on Peachtree Road. But because of MARTA’s budget issues, the project came to a halt.
Voters approved a bond issue in 2006 to fund library improvements around the county. Because of the situation with MARTA, Library Director Alison Weissinger said, Brookhaven will be one of the last libraries to see renovations.
“We thought this was going to be one of the first ones to open,” Weissinger said. “But it kept getting stalled and stalled and we got busy on other projects.”
Weissinger said the current Brookhaven library, which is classified as a neighborhood library, is 6,800 square feet. The proposed facility would bump it up to 12,000 square-feet, full service, community library, she said.
The proposal includes, among other things, a larger collection, more seating, more meeting space and more employees, Weissinger said.
She said the library system is eyeing three possible sites for the new library: the current location at 1242 North Druid Hills Road, Brookhaven Park, or a property on Dresden Drive.
Weissinger said an architect is exploring options for building a larger library at the current site.
“We’ve had this site since the 50’s. It’s a 1.18 acre site and it has a lot of challenges,” she said. “It would be feasible to put a 12,000 square foot building on this location.”
She said to build on the current site, it would likely have to be modeled after the Toco Hills library, with parking underneath the building.
“It’s my favorite I think of all the libraries,” Weissinger said of the Toco Hills location.
DeKalb County’s parks and recreation department is “not opposed” to allowing the library system to build a branch at nearby Brookhaven Park, Weissinger said. The park is already home to the DeKalb Services Center, which provides services to adults with developmental disabilities.
Weissinger said purchasing a Dresden Drive property would also be a possibility because of the “really nice development” in that area. The county has no money set aside for land acquisition, so it would need to sell the current library location in order to purchase a new site, Weissinger said.
The crowd of about 35 at the meeting had many questions and comments about the library plans.
Jack Honderd of the Brookhaven Peachtree Community Alliance worried about building the library in Brookhaven Park. Honderd said a park that large in an urban area is rare and it should be preserved.
“Once you build on green space, it’s gone forever,” Honderd said. “Let’s keep (the library) in some kind of walkable, urban area accessible to MARTA and keep the park green space.”
But some thought the park, which is tucked away from the street, would get more use and exposure if there was a library.
Ashford Park resident Ronnie Mayer has been a long-time advocate of locating the library in the park.
He envisions it as a community center that could host special events and a place where people could bring their children to read books and play in the park.
“That right there is a common sense win-win,” he said.
Kate Kauffman, a Brookhaven Fields resident, said she would like to see the library stay at the same North Druid Hills location.
She said it works well as a neighborhood library – people can take MARTA and walk from the surrounding neighborhoods to get there and a new building would be a great way to get the community more involved and excited about their library.
“I just think the neighborhood concept DeKalb started so long ago is still alive and well,” she said. “This library has such a great synergy that’s not recognized.”
William Johnson said with the rise of digital books, he said he doesn’t see the need to spend money on a bigger library.
“Libraries don’t need to be big anymore. You don’t have to have a huge collection on site anymore,” he said.