Braselton starts construction on spacious library

BRASELTON - Library employees and patrons, come fall, will no longer have to politely slide past each other in Braselton's 843-square-foot library.

City and library officials Tuesday celebrated the groundbreaking of Braselton's new 8,900-square-foot library. The afternoon rain canceled the actual groundbreaking on Ga. Highway 124 in Jackson County, but the celebration continued inside Braselton's Town Hall.

Officials expect an actual groundbreaking to take place later this week, when the weather clears.

The existing library on Ga. 124 was built about 100 years ago and was used as Braselton High School's home economics building, according to City Clerk Jennifer Scott.

The building was converted into the town's library in 1973. It opened with a few books and an all-volunteer staff from the Braselton Women's Club.

"When I took over in 2002, we had maybe 1,000 books," said Librarian Bev Adkins. "Now we have nine computers and 6,200 books. The community has been very generous. They donated all the videotapes and audio books, and many, many books."

Space is tight inside the library, which has evolved into one of Braselton's social spots and is the home of Booker the cat, who keeps down the mouse population. Books are catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System but are double-shelved and stacked on top of each other.

"It's really hard to find books when we need to send them someplace else, especially the Nora Roberts books," said Dorothy Howland, a library employee.

Even in the tight space, library staff has managed to build a series of events, such as Lunch and Learn, when patrons enjoy a full, home-cooked lunch and a guest speaker at the library for $5, prepared by Friends of the Library. Every Friday, about 30 children fill the narrow aisles for story time.

"It's hard to maneuver around on Fridays," Howland said. "We rearrange the furniture and do what we call the 'library dance' around each other. I really feel sorry for the patrons who don't know that Friday is story time."

Library use has quadrupled in the last two years, according to Mayor Pat Graham. Space shouldn't be problem in the new library, expected to open in late August or early September. The Georgian/Victorian-style structure is designed to complement some of the more than 100-year-old surrounding homes and buildings.

"When they designed the new library, they took a picture of the Braselton House on the corner and put their arm over the lower part of the house," said Adkins. "They used the top part, and the roof line, as their design."

Kit and Peggy Braselton, descendants of the town's founders, live in the Braselton house next door to the proposed library building.

The one-story building, designed by Ken Rhyne of Red Thunder Studios, features a covered porch that wraps almost all the way around the structure. It will house one large office space, a meeting room, and shelves for 161,000 volumes.

Adkins plans to hold art exhibits and writing contests in the expanded space. The gem of the new building will be the children's area, which should hold about 30 children. The walls will feature a hand-painted mural of a garden, titled "Miss Daisy's Garden" in tribute to a woman famous across town for her spectacular garden.

"I'm looking forward to more room and more books," said Hannah Howland, 9.

Braselton's officials have budgeted $1.25 million for the new library that will be built by Blue Ridge Group contractor Jonathan Clay.

It will be paid for by a grant from the Urban Redevelopment Agency, impact fees, general fund revenues and a 15-year bond.