SOUTH FORSYTH – The busiest library in the county secured state funding to up its capabilities and services, a project that has been needed for some time, library personnel said.
Sharon Forks Library, one of four Forsyth County branches, was appropriated $2 million from the state’s $21.8 billion fiscal year 2016 budget that was approved at the end of March in the Georgia General Assembly. Funding will be used for renovation and expansion projects.
“This will position us very well for at least the next 10 years,” said Anna Lyle, assistant director for support services for the Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) system. “[Libraries] are one of the reasons Forsyth is one of the fastest-growing counties. Sharon Forks is the smallest library [in the county] but has the second-highest circulation in the state.”
The Athens-Clarke County Library checks out more books than Sharon Forks, she said, but that branch is a “huge multi-story library.”
Sharon Forks checks out an average of 3,000 items every day, according to Mendy Gunter, branch manager.
“During our busiest months [summer and winter/spring break], we have up to 93,000 items circulated,” Gunter said.
An average of between 1,200 and 3,000 items are returned per day, she said.
The library is run by 25 staff members and 10 volunteers.
“We’ve needed to expand for the last four years,” Gunter said.
With the funding, the branch can afford to build additional study rooms, more space for larger programs, more shelving for children’s collections, more floor space, a room dedicated for teens and more parking. If possible, more meeting space will be added.
The highest demand for additional copies of books is the early readers and juvenile collections, Gunter said.
They do not intend to create new programs, she said, but they will be able to accommodate a larger number of people in programs where residents are currently being turned away.
“We can fit 210 in a meeting room, but that’s with no furniture, standing room only,” Gunter said.
“We could see some activity within a year,” FCPL’s Lyle said. “We would love to get this moving.”
She said state Sen. Michael Williams – Forsyth’s first-term representative – pushed for the funding. It will be used in conjunction with $2.8 million from a 1-cent sales tax referendum that residents voted for in November 2011 to fund $100 million in various county projects, including the recently opened Forsyth County Courthouse and ongoing Forsyth County Jail in downtown Cumming.
“That enabled us to do some expansion and renovation regardless,” Lyle said, “but this will make the project so much more successful.”