Brookhaven, GA – Tuesday, Alison Weissinger, Director of DeKalb County Public Library, gave a presentation to the Brookhaven Mayor, Council and Staff during a City Council Work Session.
Weissinger began her presentation with an explanation of a bond program in DeKalb County, beginning in 2005, where the county received $54.5 million dollars. She said that the county is about 75% of the way through that bond and there were two projects left. One of those projects is the Brookhaven Library. This project is a replacement project, similar to some of the systems other projects like the Toco Hills library.
Some facilities have been upgraded significantly, others have been torn down and replaced. In Brookhaven, the county would tear down the current structure and replace it.
Weissinger explained that the building was built in the 50’s, renovated in the 60’s, and received minimal maintenance – the electrical being outdated, etc., therefor making it a candidate for replacement – not renovation.
The budget for this new facility is approximately $3.6 millon dollars, although if more funds can be secured, the county would like to up that number. “$3.6 million dollars doesn’t get a whole lot of building these days, but some of our other projects have been about that number and you can get a pretty decent 10 to 12,000 square foot building for that price,” said the director. “We are looking at turning what we call a ‘neighborhood’ size library into a ‘community’ size library. These facilities are usually 8,000 sq. ft. or higher with service six days per week. There will be two, sometimes three professional librarians on staff who will help with various programs such as book clubs, story times, outreach in the community, books for all ages, and things like that.”
The Brookhaven library has been a complex issue for a number of years as the citizens in the area have shared alot of differing opinions on where to put the library and what type of facility they would like to have.
Some residents want the library in the Tag Office on Dresden Dr., some want it in Brookhaven Park, some simply want the library where it is currently on North Druid Hills Rd.
Mayor J Max Davis asked Director Weissinger, “What is your opinion on what should happen? Where do you think it’s best in your opinion?” Weissinger answered, “I want to do what the community wants and right now our two main options is the current site, which has alot of restrictions being that it is only a 1.1 acre site with over 40% of it being unusable because there is a protected stream bed there. The second best option would be to put it over at Brookhaven Park if we can come up with some kind of arrangement where the city gives us the land, or allows us to long term lease the land. What I am here to do today is to help you help me get input from your citizens to help us make this decision.”
Mayor Davis asked Weissinger how the City could get more money for the library. She said that if an arrangement can be made with the City, the best option in that regard would be to sell off the current library location’s land which appraised for a little over $1mm 5 or 6 years ago. That money would go to the Brookhaven Library in addition to the $3.6 mm already budgeted funds.
Rebecca Chase Williams, Brookhaven’s District 1 Councilperson, said that she feels as though today’s “traditional library” has been repurposed into not only a place to check out books, but into community centers with meeting places, common areas for activities, and very robust digital capabilities.
Mayor Davis suggested that the City – along with Ms. Weissinger – hold a community forum to involve the citizens in the process. He suggested something in the next month or so to get this rolling.
More about Alison: She oversees the administration of 22 DeKalb County branch libraries, and a $54,540,000 Library Bond program approved by DeKalb voters in November, 2005. 12 library construction projects are included in the bond program. Alison also manages the Georgia Center for the Book program at the DeKalb County Public Library which brings more than 100 author programs a year to DeKalb County, making DCPL the largest literary program presenter in the southeastern United States.