Local leaders are praising the opening of the new Norcross branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library for giving residents a new place to check out books, pick up skills and gather for events.
The 22,000-square-foot facility, twice the size of the former library branch, opened to the public Wednesday. Besides rows of books, it includes a game room, 120-person meeting room, study rooms, computer stations, and learning labs with space for 3D printing and video recording.
Nicole Love Hendrickson, chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, said libraries give individuals of all backgrounds access to education and resources. She recalled building her first bird feeder, learning how to make ice cream and writing her first book report during childhood while at a public library.
“Libraries are a place of refuge for people that don’t have resources at home and don’t have access to technology, information (and) to people,” Hendrickson said. “Libraries fill that void for a lot of families.”
The county and city spent about $12.3 million on the facility using special purpose local option sales tax funds.
The building, located at the corner of Buford Highway and Britt Street, includes a 128-space parking deck underneath it. Large windows on the back of the building reveal cars jetting up and down the highway, while the front of the library overlooks a public plaza connected to Lilian Webb Park.
“Residents will be able to check out a book, walk right out of the doors and find a comfortable space to read in the sun,” said County Commissioner Ben Ku, whose district includes Norcross.
Norcross residents have viewed Buford Highway as an unofficial divider between Norcross communities. The historic downtown area is located to the west of the road, while lower-income households reside to the east of it.
Mayor Craig Newton hopes the library’s design and location, wedged between the highway and downtown area, helps bridge the Norcross divide. The city recently signed off on a massive Buford Highway redevelopment plan that will add new homes, parks, retail and office space along the road.
Norcross is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in Gwinnett County, the most diverse county in the state. Nearly half of the city identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
Library services will be offered in both English and Spanish. The building is centrally located between two elementary schools and a middle school, Newton said, allowing students to walk to the facility after school.
“Having access to information, I believe, is imperative to the betterment of our physical, spiritual and economic wellbeing,” Newton said. “The right to information is a fundamental human right.”
New libraries are springing up all over Gwinnett County. A new branch paying homage to Duluth’s history opened in May. The renovation of a former Black school in Lawrenceville into a themed library and construction on a two-story branch in Snellville are expected to wrap up in a few years.
Libraries built in town centers can serve as economic engines to promote revitalization in these areas by creating a sense of place in communities, Hendrickson said.
The new branch is open seven days per week and employs 14 staff members. Library card holders have “open access” to the facility, at which times library staff are not present and security cameras monitor the building.
- Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (Open access: 8 a.m.-10 a.m. and 8 p.m.-10 p.m.)
- Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Open access: 8 a.m.-10 a.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m.)
- Sunday: 12 p.m.-5 p.m. (Open access: 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10 p.m.)