WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When Forsyth County opens the doors to its brand new $27 million Central Library, it will mark a milestone in the life of Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin.
She’s come a long way from growing up in Tobaccoville and graduating Carver High School and Winston-Salem State University. Other than a few years spent in Atlanta and Philadelphia, she’s spent most of her life in Winston-Salem.
She’s worked for the county’s library system 38 years, the last 17 years as director. Her love of library science and reading has never wavered.
“People will come here. They’ll have their coffee. They’ll use their computers. They’ll keep up with everything that’s happening in their lives,” she told me recently when describing the new library. “So, we’ve made this a community living room.”
The new Central Library sits on a Fifth Street lot where tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds built a mansion. The Reynolds Family donated it to the city. In the early 1950s, the county built its first Central Library on the site. It would remain there until 2014 when much of it was demolished to make room for the new structure.
“It was very limited as to what we could do with technology and we were running out of space,” Sprinkle-Hamlin said when describing the old library. “It wasn’t open and it just needed to go.”
No one can describe the new building as not being open. Large windows allow sunlight to flow into almost every room. And at 103,000 square feet, space isn’t a problem either. (The old library was 89,000 square feet.)
Paid for primarily via a $40 million bond referendum county voters approved in 2000, the new building is packed with all the latest technology. Sprinkle-Hamlin’s not worried about competition from smartphones and tablets.
“Maybe five years ago people were saying the library would no longer exist,” she said. “It’s really amazing, this branch has been closed since 2014 (so the new library could be built), but our circulation has gone up.”
“We need to keep up with the current trends to make sure we know what people want,” she added.
The county used -- among other things -- focus groups to ask people what they wanted in their new library. That input resulted in several things this library will feature:
- A coffee, sandwich, pastry-serving café on the first floor
- Teen Central, which includes Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch gaming systems as well as a green screen for teens to produce videos
- A rooftop terrace (on the 3rd floor) which will allow visitors to relax in a shaded outdoor environment with views (at least in the fall and winter) of Pilot Mountain
- A makerspace for visitors to create and build things
- A comfortable and quiet Forsyth Room on the third floor with large, comfortable chairs and a faux fireplace
Combine that with a state-of-the art children’s library, the critically-acclaimed North Carolina Collection, a full-service reference area, a technology room where visitors can surf the web, an auditorium that will see nearly 300 and a full commercial-grade kitchen -- you have a place that has a little something for everyone.
“The public library is one place that everyone is welcome,” Sprinkle-Hamlin said.
For more information on the Forsyth County Central Library, click here.