By Melody L. Harclerode
Editor’s Note: In this occasional series, Harclerode will highlight libraries built with funding from the 2008 voter-approved Atlanta-Fulton Library Bond Referendum.
During the months leading to the 2008 Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System bond referendum, some residents questioned the value of building new libraries in Fulton County. They wondered if internet access to books and information would make libraries obsolete particularly with savvy internet users. Despite these concerns, 65 percent of Atlanta-Fulton voters approved the bond referendum. Residents envisioned libraries as centers to serve a multitude of community needs. Since the voter approval, eight Atlanta-Fulton Public Libraries have been built including the award-winning Northwest Library at Scotts Crossing.
The architect team, Collins Cooper Carusi Architects in association with Perkins + Will, found inspiration for its building design from the history of Scotts Crossing, intensive site and neighborhood analysis, and feedback from Fulton County residents during numerous public meetings. The team discovered a community blossoming in the late 1800’s from the growth of railroad, agricultural, and mill industries. Though decades of a lack of investment, crime, and a dwindling population weakened this northwest Fulton County community, the solid mix of affordable housing and convenience to Atlanta has attracted new residents to the area.
Lead design architect, Kenneth Luker, AIA of Perkins+Will, notes, “The design concept is inspired by the overlapping industrial and residential architecture of the Scotts Crossing community. A large, light-filled metal shelter, referencing nearby industrial sheds, serves as a welcoming expression for the library and most of its 25,000 square-foot program. The remainder of the building is clad in wood siding to reference the adjacent residential context.” The design received a 2016 Honor Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects as well as a LEED Silver rating for sustainable design. At the request of citizens, light-filled book circulations spaces for adults and children are complemented with a spacious incubator space to support business start-ups, meeting rooms for community groups, and a music studio offering a unique amenity to nurture talent.
Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System Executive Director Dr. Gabriel Morley is driving the library system to deliver innovative offsite library services, such as mobile libraries, into neighborhoods; yet he also embraces innovation for onsite programs. “In the 21st Century we need to think of the library as a laboratory for ideas.” Local residents flock to the new Northwest Library at Scotts Crossing and other new Atlanta-Fulton public libraries affirming the importance of highly tailored building designs and programs. As the Fulton County leaders consider renovations to existing Atlanta-Fulton Public Libraries such as the Central Library, the new libraries offers a blueprint for success: integrating community needs into the building renovations can ensure the viability of these buildings for decades to come.
Melody L. Harclerode AIA, a local architect, directs educational, volunteer, and public programs, and promotes significant historical and natural sites for the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance.