In 2010 when Forsyth County voters approved a $40 million bond issue for badly needed library projects, few of us imagined a seven-year wait for a new Central Library or the three years downtown patrons would lose access to the current building. Demolition to remove the one-story 1950s building and gut the 1980s section was scheduled to start the first week in August, and the new 101,000-square-foot building is projected to open in the summer of 2017.
The plans – as described in recent Winston-Salem Journal articles and the Forsyth County Library website – promise an open, light-filled design that will provide a stark contrast to the former building. A 71-foot setback at the Fifth Street entrance will make room for an outdoor activity space and a reading garden. Patrons can also enter by elevator from public parking space on the 4 1⁄2 Street level. The first floor will continue to house the children’s section and the circulation desk. A 240-seat auditorium will replace the 150-seat meeting space. A café or coffee bar, event space, and the computer lab will be located on the first floor, as well as Training Bridge, a program that promotes computer and internet literacy. There will also be a technology “petting zoo” where patrons can try out new electronic devices.
Teen Central and the North Carolina Room, the local history and research room, will move to the second floor. The North Carolina Room will have a larger space, special climate controls, and an adjacent art gallery. Makerspace – an area for people to work on creating group projects – will also be housed on the second floor. The library’s general collection and reading spaces will occupy the third floor. “The Forsyth Reading
Room will have fireplaces, while a covered terrace will allow people to sit outside and enjoy views of Pilot Mountain and other areas to the north.” (Meghann Evans/Winston- Salem Journal Sunday, July 26, 2015)
At the time voters approved the bonds for the library projects, county commissioners planned to spend $28 million on the Central Library and $6 million each for new branch libraries in Kernersville and Clemmons. When $34 million of the bonds were issued last year, $2.8 million from a bond premium became available that could
have been used to enhance the Central Library. The commissioners voted in March to keep the budget at $28 million, forcing architects to trim the final design to stay within budget.
Changes include the loss of several thousand square feet of space, downsizing the auditorium from 308 to 240 seats, the removal of a second entrance from Spring Street, fewer meeting rooms, less outside glass, and some changes to interior
finishes. Library administrators view the loss of the Spring Street entrance as a positive. “Consolidating our main entrance to Fifth Street is actually better from a security standpoint and will be more efficient to staff,” said Elizabeth Skinner, Associate Library Director. The main item they hated to lose was the special access floors. “This flooring costs approximately $500,000 per floor,” said Skinner. “It would have allowed us to
change and reconfigure data and electrical outlets as functions in the building changed over time. This is something that we thought would be very responsive to the uncertain nature of changing technology – the technology that is difficult to envision and project 10-20 years into the future.”
A donor campaign is currently underway to provide funds to enhance the budget for furniture and technology. Opportunities are available to name specific areas of the Central Library as a memorial to honor family members, friends, or important members of our community.
by Cyndy Lively