The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 24, 2013

New Athens library exterior work to start by June 1


Project details

CMH Architects of Birmingham provided an exterior sketch and preliminary floor plan of the new library during the community forum but Whisenant cautioned the drawings could be adjusted according to available funding.

Whisenant said the exterior facade would include wainscoting, Alabama limestone and a double-door entrance. Small and large meeting rooms, quiet study spaces, a computer lab and an after-hours area with a coffee shop and access to meeting rooms are planned for the interior.

“The interior has yet to be designed, and we’ll have a check of funding to make sure reality is put in check as we complete the first phase,” Whisenant said. “There will be double doors at the main entrance, and we’ll be putting in an after-hours foyer that will include a coffee shop and access to meeting rooms and bathrooms. The idea is to get the shell done for the exterior in no more than six months.”

Laurita described the transition from a cozy, community library to a spacious, state-of-the-art facility as “a wild adventure.”

“We are going to continue to offer the great services we’ve offered in the past … but there are going to be a lot of good changes,” Laurita said. “Our computer usage has grown exponentially every year, and we’ve had a 51 percent increase in our computer and wireless system. In the new library, we’ll have public computers, plus a dedicated computer lab for programs or training.”

Space upgrade

Based on square footage, nearly four buildings the size of the current library nestled near Julian Newman Elementary could squeeze into the new library.

The current building is 9,760 square feet, while the new library site will house 38,427 square feet, according to library officials.

“Our opening program last summer had 440 people (in the main library) room. With the new library, we’ll be able to better host large activities and group activities, and we’ll be able to better host the community’s needs,” Laurita said.

State standards show that Limestone County, home to 87,654 residents in a 2012 estimate by the U.S. Census, is large enough to support a library with at least 37,106 square feet.

Sandy McNeal, business manager for the ALPL, said the library has received at least 80,000 visitors each fiscal year since 2007-08. The number of reference requests has increased 73 percent from 21,381 six years ago to 37,009 in 2011-12.

“It’s going to be a lot bigger, and even more people will be coming to visit the library,” said library aide Jennifer Campuzano, who has been a library patron since 2004 and a part-time worker since September. “It will be good for people like my brother, who are in walking distance from the new library.”

—Reporter Jean Cole contributed to this report.

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