The usual quiet of the Sharon Forks Library was slightly disturbed Monday afternoon as county commissioners, state representatives and Forsyth County Public Library officials and guests gathered for the library’s expansion and renovation groundbreaking ceremony.
The project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018, was funded by $2 million from the state’s $21.8 billion fiscal year 2016 budget, local SPLOST funds and county impact fees. And for good reason.
Based on data collected statewide by the Georgia Public Library Service, the Sharon Forks Library lends out more materials than any other library in the state.
During FY16, the library is expected to exceed more than 1 million checkouts, surpassing FY15’s record of 984,291 physical materials checked out, District 2 Commissioner Brian Tam said.
“Forsyth County is the only county in Georgia in which checkouts per capita exceed the national average,” Tam said. “For the Sharon Forks service area, there’s an average of 15 items checked out per year for every resident.”
The second library established in the county, Sharon Forks was built in 2000 to resemble an old farmhouse.
“We knew we didn’t want it to look like the Cumming Library,” said Mary Halen McGruder, chair of the library board. “We wanted it to have its own identity and [after] talking about several ideas, we kept coming back to what this area had represented in the early days of Forsyth County: a farming community where families lived, worked, went to school and worshipped together.”
The library quickly became the community center McGruder and others had hoped for, but they soon found out the library was lacking in space.
“The busiest library in the county is also the smallest,” Library Director Anna Lyle said.
The expansion, Lyle said, will add about 18,000 square feet to the library’s existing 20,000 square feet, almost doubling the building’s size.
Its meeting room will also be relocated and built significantly larger, as will the parking lot.
In an effort to welcome patrons of all ages, the library will have child, teen and adult sections, as well as five new study rooms, a conference room that can be divided into two more medium-sized study rooms and a new community hotspot — an open, flexible group-study technology area.
The library will also expand its Asian language materials, adding four new collections in Mandarin, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil.
Tam, who is leaving office in January, said he is glad to see the project begin during his last year.
“The benchmark for which a community is measured is its school system, and the library system helps tie into that by providing resources that our youth need, in particular, to advance their education,” he said.
At a meeting held Monday afternoon, the library board voted to approve sending a letter to commissioners that will essentially “stake a claim” in almost 5 acres adjacent to Denmark High School.