For years the old Kroger building sat on a slight rise near the creek on the East side of South Jefferson Street in Athens. While not quite an eyesore, it was the equivalent of a battleship in dry dock with no funding to restore it and return it to sea. If a building could look “lonely,” it did, and was a continual reminder of a bygone day when groceries and foodstuffs were procured there in abundance. Those days are unequivocally over, and the result of public and private funding has afforded us a beautiful building that, especially at night, looks like its own “city set on a hill.”
The “soft opening” of the facility was on Monday, December 29th, and while there are still some books to be shelved, kinks to be worked out, and hopefully spots of interior color to be added, the building is a sunny place to indulge in research or reading for pleasure in one of the niches near the windows.
Some might think it is “too big and fancy for Athens,” but I have a feeling that with the growth that is occurring in our city and county, it is not going to be long before we will fill out the 10,000 square foot facility. I remember being invited as an author to speak to the Book Club at the old library, and felt decidedly uncomfortable that my presentation would be perceived as an intrusion, especially for those on the computer. I felt like someone who is on their cell phone in public, with no awareness of how invasive or annoying their conversation is to those around them. I could only hope that the computer patrons knew it couldn’t be helped.
The new library has the Claborne Children’s room where kids can go to learn how to be quiet in a library as well as attend presentations just for them. The teen room is apparently going to have some pretty impressive electronic equipment, and it will be interesting to see how that works out in the scheme of the desire to have adolescents becoming enamored with actual books, either electronic or “old school.”
The Shelby Southard history room is one with which I hope to become very familiar, as it will not only include a sizeable hard copy collection of all kinds of works related to history and genealogy, but will also have computers that are linked to Heritage Online. On my dad’s side of the family, I come from a plantation owner in Louisville, and have always wanted to know more about my southern roots.
The Beasley pre-function area is a large area that can be used for “receptions before the event,” and leads into the community room which will be available for rent. The donor board is large and lengthy, a visibly noticeable proof of what the community has done to get the library “ship” sailing anew in grand fashion.
One of the literal gifts the library is offering to the community is a period of “fine forgiveness” through the 31st of January, 2015. There is not complete amnesty, however. If you owe $5 or less in library fines, you are home free. If you owe $25 or more, all you pay is $5, and the remaining fines will be waived. If you “forgot” to return your book, oh, let’s say a decade ago, and it is still in good shape, your charge will be $5. This is a bargain, and if you are an “overdue offender,” you definitely need to take the deal that’s on the table!
Does the Library have needs? Yes, for all the generous donations that have been made, there is an ongoing fundraiser for everything from books to computers to literacy stations. If you wish to help, go to www.ALCPLfoundation.org and you can give online to their “wish list.”
The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony to “launch” the library will be on January 24th at 10 am, and my hope is that it will be well attended. My longing, however, is that the people of the Tennessee Valley will treasure our “ship” that will enable us to sail far away to the “Read Sea;” our Athens-Limestone County Public Library.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner