The long-dormant Brookhaven library project may be coming back to life.
DeKalb County Public Library Director Alison Weissinger visited the Brookhaven City Council’s May 28 work session to talk to the council members about options for the new library.
Brookhaven is among the last of DeKalb’s library branches to be upgraded through funds from a 2005 bond issue. Weissinger said DeKalb has a budget of $3.6 million to replace the Brookhaven branch.
“We actually would like to spend a little bit more,” Weissinger said.
Weissinger said the Brookhaven library branch, on North Druid Hills Road, was built in the 1950s and is about 6,800 square feet. The new library is proposed to be about 12,000 square feet, she said.
The top two locations that have been identified for an upgraded Brookhaven library are the current property and Brookhaven Park.
The 1.18-acre property on North Druid Hills has several limitations, such as a protected streambed that makes 40 percent of the site unusable, Weissinger said.
Weissinger said if Brookhaven Park is selected as the preferred site, DeKalb officials would like to “come up with some kind of arrangement where the city gives us the land or allows us to long-term lease the land.”
Weissinger asked City Council members for help deciding where a new branch would best serve Brookhaven residents.
“The folks in Brookhaven seem to have a lot of differing opinions on where the library should be,” Weissinger said.
Weissinger said one option is to sell the land where the library now sits and use the proceeds of the sale toward the budget for the new library.
She said a past appraisal valued the property at about $1 million.
“That’s an advantage to moving it,” she said.
DeKalb County originally envisioned the Brookhaven library branch being incorporated into a transit-oriented development at the MARTA station on Peachtree Road, but because of budget issues at MARTA, the project was stalled.
The proposal for the new library includes a larger collection, more seating, more meeting space and more employees, Weissinger said.
Council members said they would like to see plenty of meeting space included in the final design for the library.
“It seems to me that libraries over the years have really kind of been repurposed,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams. “Instead of just going there to check out your books, they’re really community centers. What I see going on in these beautiful new centers in DeKalb are meetings, senior groups, card playing, lessons, classes — really robust activities.”
Weissinger said the goal is for the library to be a safe, comfortable place where people can spend time.
“I think we need less space for physical objects and more spaces for people to come together and do things and meet,” Weissinger said. “What a lot of people want is what we call that third place to go to. They go to work or go to school and they go home, but where is that third place in the community where you can go and hang out and be safe and enjoy your community or enjoy a resource? That can be the library. You don’t have to go to Starbucks or McDonald’s and order a cup of coffee.”
Weissinger said libraries are still a vital part of the community, even if there is less of an emphasis on physical books.
“It’s all still about books and reading and stories and information. It’s just being presented in a different way and in a way that fits people’s lifestyles more,” Weissinger said.