Central Library renovation in Winston-Salem will boost resources at branch libraries

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Obi Smaw (left) moves a desk, formerly located at the Central library into storage, as Eric Gushue looks on at the Tech Services building in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday Aug. 1, 2014. (Bruce Chapman/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The closing of the Forsyth County Central Library for renovations may inconvenience its regular patrons, but the system’s branch libraries will see a boost in staff and resources as a result, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Some will even see expanded hours of operation.

The county still has not finalized the date when the downtown library will close for renovations, but staff provided a report to the Forsyth County commissioners Thursday of the Central Library services that will be available elsewhere while the library is renovated.

The Central Library has about 60 employees. Staff members will be shuffled to the nine branch libraries while the library is closed. Each branch will house anywhere from one to six additional staff members, according to the staff breakdown in the report.

No layoffs are planned, but no vacancies will be filled.

“We’re excited to get additional staff, of course, because we’ll probably have an increase in foot traffic,” said Yolanda Bolden, who manages the Malloy/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center branch.

The Malloy/Jordan, Southside and Reynolda Manor branches will add Sunday hours once the Central Library is closed.

The Central Library was the only library in the system that offered Sunday hours.

There will also be standard operating hours at each branch library, which will mean an increase in hours for a few of the branches.

“Opening on Sundays is just a way to continue the service that Central already provided,” said Jenny Boneno, manager at the Reynolda Manor branch.

Boneno said Thursday that the branch had not been told yet that plans were official, but staff knew they would be getting some additional staff and possibly Sunday hours.

“With us being a larger branch in town I feel like we’re definitely going to see an increase in business,” she said. “We welcome those folks to use our library and we’re happy to have the extra staff, of course.”

Bestsellers, DVDs and other popular library materials will be distributed to branch libraries while the Central Library is temporarily closed. Branches or other venues will host programs previously offered at the Central Library.

Each branch library will have additional public computers, and Computer Training Bridge classes and an open computer help lab will be available on the first floor of the county government center. Some library administrators will also be placed in the government center.

The North Carolina Room, the library’s popular local history and research room, will be temporarily moved to space on the second floor of the government center, next to the register of deeds office. That space is smaller than the area in the Central Library. Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, director of the Forsyth County Public Library, said it will probably hold 5 to 10 percent of the entire collection.

On its website, the library asked patrons to share what they would like to see in the temporary North Carolina Room. The post says the library will take city directories, microfilm of newspapers and county records, vertical files with local history records, books about North Carolina genealogy and history, local and state laws, Moravian records and historical maps of the area.

Sprinkle-Hamlin said the planned distribution of staff and resources is based on space and anticipated use of the branch.

“It’s a skeleton, a cherry pick that probably will satisfy some people but it absolutely will not satisfy all of the people,” Commissioner Dave Plyler said of the plan. He said he is not blaming staff.

He had advocated for the library to be placed at the old Sheriff’s Office and is upset about the library completely closing for the renovation.

The Forsyth County commissioners decided in a narrow 4-3 vote last year to renovate the Central Library on Fifth Street instead of selecting a new downtown location. The project is part of a $40 million bond package approved by voters in 2010 for library projects. About $28 million is available for the Central Library project, with early estimates putting construction costs at about $20 million.

The library could be closed for at least two years as the county oversees a massive overhaul of the site.

Commissioner Mark Baker said they knew county staff would make efforts to provide services elsewhere in the interim. He said there are still nine branch libraries and that he is sure staff will work to have the renovation project completed as quickly as possible.

Sprinkle-Hamlin said she thinks everyone will be excited when the new Central Library opens.

“The inconvenience is necessary to have the type of library we envision,” Sprinkle-Hamlin said.

Last week movers could be seen hauling items from the technical services area of the library. It is a behind-the-scenes department that does not interact with the public, Sprinkle-Hamlin said, so they were moving early.

The commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday for a construction manager at risk for the preconstruction phase of the renovation.

They have not solidified the library closing date. Early plans called for it to close as early as October for preconstruction work, allowing contractors and staff to go behind walls to evaluate mechanicals and check for asbestos.

“We know we’re going to be closing,” Sprinkle-Hamlin said. “We just don’t know when.”

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