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Book battle cry: Hundreds rally to save Dacula library from closing

DACULA - Despite a downpour, about 500 people rallied Saturday morning to show their support for the Dacula library, which is slated to close.

"The rain was not keeping us away, because this is our library, and this is very important to us," Dacula resident Angel Kozlowski said.

Carrying umbrellas and wearing ponchos over their red "Save Dacula's Library!" T-shirts, the participants marched along the sidewalk from the intersection of Dacula and Fence roads to the Dacula library. Because the crowd was so large, the group gathered in a nearby parking lot in Dacula Park to listen to rally organizers and elected officials.

"You are making a powerful statement," said Phillip Saxton, a member of the Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees. "I'm fired up to save the Dacula library."

Saxton, appointed to the library board by Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, was the only board member who in August voted against closing the 3-year-old Dacula library to open a branch in Hamilton Mill, which is under construction. The board will revisit the decision during a meeting Tuesday, library officials have said.

Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said the community has a vested interest in keeping the Dacula library open, but it's not just that branch they want to save. Because of budget cuts, library officials have said two more branches will close.

"I think (libraries) are important resources for all of the citizens in Gwinnett County," Wilbanks said. "We are in total support of keeping all libraries open."

State Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, said the turnout on a rainy morning shows the library is important to Dacula.

"Three years ago, we were here to celebrate the opening of the library," she said. "It's hard to believe we're here today trying to save it."

Former county administrator Charlotte Nash said Gwinnett officials need to honor the commitment they made to residents when they built the library with sales tax revenue - and the commitment they made to the Hood family, which donated the land where the library sits.

"We know times are tough," Nash said. "We know everyone in county government is having to cut back. ... (But) other departments have found ways to do that without completely shutting services down."

Dacula Business Association President Chad Parson urged residents to continue to show their support before Tuesday's library board meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Five Forks branch. A petition with more than 2,000 signatures has been delivered to the board, and people continued to sign the petition Saturday. A Facebook group called "Save Dacula Library" has nearly 6,000 members.

Parson said documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate the Dacula branch will close Nov. 14. Library officials could not be reached Saturday to confirm this.

"Our target date for getting this overturned is Tuesday," he said.