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Community celebrates library's return

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Jennifer Holcomb and her kids are glad to have their library back.

The crew visited the Five Forks branch Saturday to return some books but were excited to find a reopening celebration that included a tour of special high-tech features -- and cake.

"It was great," Holcomb said after her kids, 10, 9, 5 and 8 months, tested out a machine that sorts books. "It was kind of cool. The librarian said it was like having an extra pair of hands."

While students from Gwinnett School of Music gave performances, Gwinnett County Public Library Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam talked about the $1.6 million project that kept the branch closed for much of the past year.

Not only did the project upgrade the heating and air system and fix a water problem that has plagued the facility for years, but it also brought the branch up to a new standard in technology.

Along with the sorting machine, the branch also features a tech studio, equipped with a keyboard, microphones, a video camera and computer equipment that allows patrons to create top-notch videos or other projects.

Stanbery-Kellam said another of her favorite new features is the book vending machine, which arrived last week.

Giving a dozen options, including children's books, adult fiction and even DVDs, library card holders can check out a selection even after the facility closes.

"That gives you 24/7 access," at a time when the library has cut back on hours, she said.

Mostly, though, the event Saturday was about reopening a library so dear to people in the area.

"We thought it would be a nice welcome back to the community," Stanbery-Kellam said.

But Betsy Brewer said she couldn't wait through the summer. She still frequented the branch, picking up books that were on hold.

"I read a lot, so I was up here all the time to see what was going on," Brewer said.