An approximate $2 million renovation of the Northside Library in Buckhead is expected to begin by the end of this year to bring a fresh, updated look and feel to the small, neighborhood library that opened in 1989.
A community meeting on March 20 at the branch library tucked in a small space at 3295 Northside Parkway attracted more than a dozen people who hope to see changes from everything to ridding the building of its checkerboard exterior to possibly removing an industrial sculpture sitting at its entrance.
Representatives from McAfee3 Architects and Evergreen Construction, who will design and construct the renovations, were on hand at that meeting to gather input from residents. Those representatives will then use the input when making the designs and present those designs at a meeting later this year. They are the same companies heading up the renovations and upgrades at the Buckhead Library.
“Please make it pretty,” a conservancy board member said. “It’s embarrassing. We don’t like the checkerboard look.”
A large, industrial sculpture at the library’s entrance is dangerous, several people said, and children are always playing on it even though a sign requests people to stay off it.
Fulton County Arts and Culture Deputy Director Emmitt Stevenson said his group is currently trying to identify the piece, the artist and its significance.
“This building was dedicated in 1989 and we are not sure about the artist or the sculpture,” he said. “It may be significant. We have to make sure we know what it is first.”
Howell Williams, the branch manager for Northside Library for 15 years before retiring last year, said the sculpture was one of the sculptures of the Atlanta Gateway Industrial Park built in the late 1960s. The industrial park was located in south Atlanta near Six Flag to be a place for people to view contemporary, minimalist sculptures. Eventually the sculptures were donated to various Fulton facilities.
Al Collins, the head of the system’s Atlanta-Fulton Library Services Division, said libraries must also adapt to today’s users who don’t always see them as only a silent space check out books, but more of a community center feel.
“Libraries are changing,” he said. “They are community living rooms. They are more lively environments [than in past].”
The children’s area at Northside Library is not separated or closed off from the rest of the library and when dozens of children gather for story time readings, the sounds can be heard throughout the library.
Some residents suggested enclosed study spaces for those who do need absolute quiet, while not having to close off the children’s area. Soundproofing the children’s area was also suggested.
Another parent said the children’s area would benefit from a creative design. She said she remembered the library she attended as a child had a tree house in it. Something like that spurs imagination and makes it memorable for kids, she said. The current space “lacks inspiration,” she said.
The library also has a front glassed-in atrium that many people said gets way too hot in the summer months. It was also described as “wasted space.” Making more efficient use of that front atrium could create a more inviting library, they said.
The library also has only one small meeting room that is used for everything from yoga for seniors to kids craft time. Another small meeting room is needed because of all the requests for space, people recommended.
The Northside Library is a small one, however, and will not be expanded as part of the renovation. All changes will occur in the existing footprint of the building. The small parking lot will be repaved and restriped, but no new spaces are likely to be added, said Jay Lawton, general manager of McAfee3 Architects.
One resident asked about having at least one space dedicated for 5-minute parking so people can just drop off books. Someone else suggested perhaps a drive-through drop box be installed.
More landscaping and benches were recommended as ways to make the library more inviting to visitors.
One major issue is that many people don’t know the library is there because it is nearly hidden off a small driveway on Northside Parkway. A new monument sign is planned, Collins said.
Definite improvements on the list, according to Collins, include replacing the roof, stormwater improvements to the parking lot, new LED lighting inside and outside the library, new and more computers, all restrooms renovated to make them ADA accessible, replacement of the heating and cooling systems, new furniture, new carpet, new security cameras inside and outside the library, a digital information monitor to replace pamphlets and new fire alarms.
Collins said new, 66-inch high bookshelves are also planned to replace the current 96-inch tall bookshelves. The taller bookshelves often have unused space on the top shelves because people can’t reach them, he said. Having lower shelves is also intended to create a “more visual connection” throughout the library.
Alan Siler said the Northside Library is very busy because it is located near a residential area.
“So much of the community centers around this building,” he said after the meeting. “And patrons who come here really are involved and everyone knows each other. It has a very homey feel.”
“Freshening it up, changing the lighting, more study rooms, all of this will help a lot,” he said. “I think making it more open and welcoming will be a huge advantage for this branch.”
Howell Williams agreed the Northside Library is a small, family-oriented branch “where people really do know your name.”
“And that’s what people like and want, especially in these days,” she said.