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Closing the book?
Budget cuts could signal the end for more libraries

LAWRENCEVILLE - The proposed closing of a library branch has already caused an uproar in Gwinnett. But where could officials close two more?

The thankless task is left to Gwinnett County Public Library staffers and board members faced with bustling branches but dwindling finances.

Officials have already shortened hours, cut Saturday service and slated the three-year-old Dacula branch to close so the newer and greener Hamilton Mill edifice can open early next year, but officials say a promised 10 percent cut to the library's county subsidy means the belt will have to be tightened again, and officials say that could include the closing of two more branches.

Dacula residents working on petitions and a rally to keep the local branch open have said alternatives such as further hour reductions or increased fees should be considered.

"We know this is a Gwinnett County issue, and if Lilburn were shuttered, it would be just as big a concern," Dacula resident Colin Daymude said.

Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, when faced with a crowd of upset Dacula residents, said her hometown of Duluth would have to forego a promised new branch to replace its small, 20-year-old building.

"We're not trying to hurt anybody here," she said. "If we can leave every library open and not be several million in the hole next year, then that's great. ... (But) We can't keep them (all) open."

So which one do they chose?

"All of our branches are busy. No one presents itself as a weak link," Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam said earlier this month. "We don't want to close any libraries."

Each library branch has a unique history and a niche in its community. Circulation numbers don't tell the entire story, officials say.

Here is a look at the county's 15 library branches, including the Hamilton Mill building, which is under construction and was slated to open next year.

SideBar: A rundown of the 15 Gwinnett library branches

Mountain Park

1210 Pounds Road S.W.

Lilburn, Ga. 30047

· Opened Dec. 19, 1987

· 10,260 square feet

· Branch sits in the shadow of Stone Mountain and is a vibrant, active community where children, adults and seniors use Mountain Park Park and the library together.

· Branch hosts "Guide dogs in training."

· Branch is the first of the new modern library buildings that exist today.

Lilburn

788 Hillcrest Road

Lilburn, Ga. 30047

· Opened Aug. 22, 1988

· 10,260 square feet

· This branch sees a very diverse customer base, with library users of many different ethnicities. The Lilburn branch has an active Spanish language collection for adults and a bilingual collection for children.

· Librarians facilitate an area elementary school summer reading program in addition to the library system's summer reading program.

· The use of public computers is among the highest in the system.

Grayson

700 Grayson Parkway

Grayson, Ga. 30017

· Opened Oct. 28, 2006

· 20,055 square feet

· Currently the newest library branch.

· Benefits from community support by hosting the most volunteer hours of all GCPL branches

· Has the highest statistics in system for use of wireless (WiFi) Internet connections.

Grayson

700 Grayson Parkway

Grayson, Ga. 30017

· Opened Oct. 28, 2006

· 20,055 square feet

· Currently the newest library branch.

· Benefits from community support by hosting the most volunteer hours of all GCPL branches

· Has the highest statistics in system for use of wireless (WiFi) Internet connections.

Collins Hill

455 Camp Perrin Road

Lawrenceville, Ga. 30043

· Opened Oct. 16, 1999

· 20,750 square feet

· The Collins Hill Garden is a quiet sanctuary that features benches, flowers and greenery that provide a shady, comfortable place to read and relax.

· Collins Hill has the largest collection at more than 100,000 items. The collection is extremely well-rounded, reflecting the diverse interests of those living in the Collins Hill area.

Dacula

265 Dacula Road

Dacula, Ga. 30019

· Opened April 15, 2006

· 20,055 square feet

· Branch is close to three Gwinnett County Public Schools and Hebron's K-12 private school gives staffers a unique opportunity to serve, and partner with, the educators and families.

· Being situated in Dacula Park allows the branch to serve customers who use the park for games and events.

· Branch maintains and builds upon the high quality of the opening day collection. The branch is constantly examining the collection to make sure it is comprehensive, balanced and in good condition.

Suwanee

361 Main St.

Suwanee, Ga. 30024

· Opened Oct. 30, 2004

· 20,477 square feet

· The multicultural staff enjoys serving a diverse community.

· A new tunnel under the railroad tracks allows customers to walk to Town Center Park.

· Playtown Suwanee, Town Center Park and walking trails are close to the branch.

Hamilton Mill

3690 Braselton Highway

Dacula, Ga. 30019

· Slated to open early 2010

· 20,805 square feet

· The Hamilton Mill branch will be the library's first green building, incorporating sustainable building elements and construction practices.

Duluth

3480 Duluth Park Drive

Duluth, Ga. 30136

· Opened June 24, 1989

· 10,499 square feet

· Duluth branch customers represent global diversity

· This branch is the busiest of the small branches in the system, in terms of materials checked in/out.

· The library branch staff has a diversity of backgrounds, experience and education.

Five Forks

2780 Five Forks Trickum Road

Lawrenceville, Ga. 30044

· Opened March 2, 1995

· 20,135 square feet

· Meeting room gives local groups free space which is in short supply in the county.

· Five Forks is home to two library services: the Library Help Line and Ask Info.

· Only branch in the system to offer microfilm collection and access.

Buford-Sugar Hill

2100 Buford Highway

Buford, Ga. 30518

· Opened Dec. 7, 1989

· 10,624 square feet

· Branch serves two school systems - Buford City and Gwinnett County.

· Branch serves customers from at least four bordering counties - Hall, Forsyth, Barrow and Jackson.

· Has two cities within its service area - Buford and Sugar Hill.

Lawrenceville

1001 Lawrenceville Highway

Lawrenceville, Ga. 30045

· Opened June 18, 1990

· 28,309 square feet (including administrative offices)

· The Lawrenceville branch always leads the system in new library cards issued - an average of about 500 per month.

· Regardless of day of the week, the Lawrenceville branch sees an average of more than 100 customers per hour come through its doors.

Centerville

3025 Bethany Church Road

Snellville, Ga. 30039

· Opened July 6, 2002

· 12,040 square feet

· Appearance of the branch is a unique barn-like theme, quiet study is a silo; storytime room is like a horse stable; and it's very bright and airy.

· There are many distance learners - adults who are pursuing or completing their bachelor's degrees and beyond.

· Branch serves the smallest school cluster with three schools (elementary, middle, and high) within walking distance.

Norcross

6025 Buford Highway

Norcross, Ga. 30071

· Opened Aug. 18, 1990

· 10,624 square feet

· It is the library branch from which the entire Gwinnett County Public Library system began. The library opened in Norcross on July 1, 1907, with a collection of 300 books.

· Norcross branch is the most ethnically diverse branch in the library system. Forty-eight percent speak a language other than English in their homes with 32.9 percent of that being Spanish.

Peachtree Corners

5570 Spalding Drive

Duluth, Ga. 30136

· Opened June 24, 1989

· 14,852 square feet

· Peachtree Corners has a heavily used CD collection. It is one of the most popular collections, especially for commuters.

· This branch realizes heavy out-of-county use by customers who either find it convenient to use because it is located near the Fulton County line. Gwinnettians who live closer to other branches use this branch because they work in the area.

Elizabeth H. Williams

2740 Lenora Church Road

Snellville, Ga. 30078

· Opened April 11, 1988

· 10,260 square feet

· Branch has a community art project in the lobby, with contributions from families, businesses, community organizations (police and the historical society) and employees.

· Branch has a large number of adult customers (mostly in their 30s), job seeking or studying for school.