LARSON: Every day is Earth Day at Hamilton Mill Library

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

When I travel, the local library is usually part of my itinerary from the boxy brick building in Cornell, Wisc., to the quaint cottage in Bull Shoals, Ark. to that splendid structure in Birmingham.

In my own county, I remember delighting in visits to the new state-of-the-art libraries that decades ago began replacing depression-era bungalows and even the basement of a commercial building.

So, when my friend Nancy Rowland insisted I see the Hamilton Mill Branch, I had no idea what would make this library any nicer than the rest. It took only seconds to realize that not only was this place a work of esthetics, but a work of environmental genius as well.

Designed by Precision Planning, Inc. and built by Garrard Construction Group, it is the first LEED certified library in the state and opened on April 24, 2010, two days after Earth Day. Oh, well, you can’t get everything perfect and you certainly wouldn’t want to rush a masterpiece like this!

The entire building is earth friendly with a reflective roof surface, sunshades and solar control devices, low flow plumbing, native landscaping and recycled materials throughout.

The inside “Art in Architecture” motif designed by local artist Maria Artemis, combines themes of nature and language in our culture. Her series of screened glass “paintings” for the windows, invites customers to more actively interact with their library.

I asked assistant manager Cara Karnes what it was like to work there and if this interactive feature had any effect.

“The light in the branch is fantastic. The staff loves the natural light. I call the Help Desk our tree house since our view highlights the trees and the desk is made of bamboo, which is a renewable resource.”

I had to ask, in light of my own explorations, if the building attracts tourists.

“It’s a great place for everyone. Customers with visiting family members always say, “You’ve got to come check out our cool library!’”

Manager Margaret Penn added, “In the first couple of years after the building opened, there were a number of architectural and library groups who came for tours. These days we often host Boy and Girl Scout troops and other local groups who come to learn about the green features as well as how to use the library.”

I didn’t meet any visitors there, but I thought he next best thing would be to hear the reaction of our new library director, Charles Pace.

“When I first visited the Hamilton Mills Branch I was very impressed with what a light and airy space it is and how natural light and sustainable features were incorporated into the overall design. Going forward I expect to continue the good work that was done at Hamilton Mills in our future library building projects as we strive to create facilities that will meet the needs of a 21st century community.”

And maybe, along with the green designs, green up the county with some tourist trade.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.