One million books is quite a lot. It amounts to thousands of pounds of paper and contains millions of stories, billions of characters, histories, poems, recipes, and countless words that tell the story of who we are, who we were and who we might be.
Every year, 1 million books and other media types circulate through the Sharon Forks Library, making it the single busiest library of any size within the state of Georgia.
Soon, that number may rise dramatically with the recent completion of the Sharon Forks branch’s expansion project.
After more than a year of nearly constant construction and renovation, the branch is ready to reopen with more space, more materials and the enthusiasm to serve a growing population of library patrons set on getting their books at Sharon Forks.
“This community really demands the high level of services that we have,” said Anna Lyle, Forsyth County library director. “Not just this library, but the whole system, we circulate more per capita than any other library in the state.”
The all-day event held Saturday featured a performance by Lambert High School’s string quintet, The Fab Five, and activities for all ages throughout the day including several cultural demonstrations from the University of North Georgia on Chinese culture and traditions, and two Indian dance performances from Natyalaya School of Indian Classical Dance and Atlanta Nritya Dance Academy.
According to Sharon Forks branch manager Mendy Gunter, the construction lasted more than a year, but was broken into different phases so that patrons would be able to access materials at times. Recently the branch was closed for more than a month, while finishing touches were made to the building.
Over the weekend, Sharon Forks Library hosted the grand reopening ceremony for its new expansion project which almost doubled the existing space from 20,500 square feet to 39,742 square feet, adding five new study rooms, conference rooms, quiet rooms, a new teen collection room, and nooks and crannies stuffed with comfortable seating to rest with a book.
The new Sharon Forks Library has been almost totally redesigned. The large front porch entryway of the old building has been closed off and converted into conference rooms, and new front parking lot pathways lead into the redesigned entryway past the Friends Bookstore and front desk, and into the long rows of shelved materials.
Gunter said that before the expansion project, the most popular community events would often fill up quickly and exceed capacity, forcing the branch to offer additional programs. She said that the redesigned space will likely solve that problem for now.
“We think that this room, when we get the official count from the fire marshal, will probably be able to fit in about 450 people at a time … I think our only limitation will be our parking,” Gunter said, while walking through the community meeting space.
Lyle said staff was able to add 40 additional parking spaces to the branch by using every bit of available space — even moving the building’s water retention areas underground to have more space.
“We really would have loved to have more parking but if you walk around the outside you’ll see that we used every bit of the site that we could,” she said.
According to a news release from the library system, since 2000 the population in the Sharon Forks area has risen by 100 percent and the number of patrons visiting the Sharon Forks Branch has increased by 300 percent.
Both Lyle and Gunter said the expanded building, increased variety of materials, and variety of functional spaces, have opened the expanded branch up to the new needs of Forsyth County residents.
“We really focus on personalized service. We realize that people have so many different reasons for coming in here it’s not just that traditional idea of coming in to read … people just enjoy the space even if they have materials at home and have room at home. They just want to come here for the atmosphere and to come around likeminded people,” Lyle said
“It’s amazing, the number of different reasons people come into the library. And we try to be there to support that use,” she said.