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Sharon Forks Library praised at reopening celebration
Sen. Michael Williams
Sen. Michael Williams speaks to a crowd of people assembled in the meeting room of the Sharon Forks Library during an event held Friday to celebrate the newly renovated branch. - photo by Alexander Popp

On Friday, Sharon Forks Library hosted its public reopening ceremony for local leaders and state representatives. 

During the event, library and county staff celebrated the people and organizations that made the new library expansion project happen. The crowd at the event heard from Sen. Michael Williams, Rep. Todd Jones, Forsyth County Library Director Anna Lyle, and several patrons, who spoke about why they visit the branch. 

“This community really demands the high level of services that we have,” Lyle said. “Not just this library, but the whole system, we circulate more per capita than any other library in the state.”

After more than a year of nearly constant construction and renovation, the new Sharon Forks Library branch reopened with more space, more materials and the enthusiasm to serve a growing population of library patrons set on getting their books there.

One local woman, Priya Narasimhan, said the library’s expanded collection of world language materials allows people of different cultures to learn different languages and connect to different cultures.

“We strongly believe that our language is our identity. These books would help us grow our identity more … having such a collection, lets people from my country … get started communicating with their kids or grandkids. That’s a great tool and how communication grows,” Narasimhan said.

Lyle said the system staff “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 … [be] around likeminded people.”

In addition to shelves full of new materials and space, many of the speakers Friday touched on the advances in technology that have been made to the branch. 

According to a news release from the library system, the branch now features new automatic systems for self-checkout, automated book handling systems, WiFi, charging, smart TVs and a room dedicated to creative collaboration.

Jones, who attended a strategic planning session last year to help shape the library system, said that when looking at the system as a whole he realized the advances libraries have made over the years.

“I took so much out of that strategic planning session and began to realize that this is the loop, this is the backbone, this is the link, this is the DNA, this can really, truly facilitate what all of us are looking for — lifelong learning,” Jones said. 

On March 24, the branch hosted its initial grand reopening ceremony for the project which almost doubled the existing space from 20,500 square feet to 39,742 square feet, added 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. 

According to Sharon Forks branch manager Mendy Gunter, the construction lasted more than a year, but was split 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.

According to a release, the library project cost about $7.2 million, and $2.8 million was funded by SPLOST VII, $2.4 million from Forsyth County Impact Fees and $2 million from a State of Georgia Construction Grant.