The “comprehensive” renovation plan for the Buckhead Branch Library was unveiled at a Feb. 7 meeting to a largely positive response from around two-dozen patrons and staff. Not so popular: a construction closure that may start in April and run as late as December.

The Buckhead Library, at 269 Buckhead Ave., is among 22 libraries getting renovations in the latest phase of an Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s capital improvement program approved in 2008. Also getting a makeover this year is the Northside Branch Library at 3295 Northside Parkway, which will host its own plan unveiling on Feb. 19.

The new Buckhead Branch Library layout as presented at the Feb. 7 meeting. (John Ruch)

The Buckhead branch’s $2.7 million renovation is “comprehensive,” said Al Collins, the administrator of a county bond program funding the system’s new and improved libraries. It includes everything from a new roof and signs outside to completely new layout and furnishings inside. The exact construction timeline is uncertain due to such issues as permitting, officials said, but the work is expected to happen roughly from early May through early November, with closure extending a little before and after for preparations.

Two renovation features that got attendee applause were new lighting and a new 48-seat meeting room to complement an existing 80-seat room.

Other significant new features include three self-checkout stations; four glass-walled study rooms of varying sizes; and a vending machine area dubbed the “café.”

The overall vision of the renovation is more flexible space and a more open layout to improve security and the atmosphere, according to Collins and architects with the firm McAfee3.

The current layout of the Buckhead Branch Library. (John Ruch)

A big change related to that theme is doing away with the traditional circulation desk. Instead, there will be a one-person station that can be moved to different spots, though it likely will remain in the lobby. Collins said the idea is that other librarians will visit various areas of the building instead of sitting at the desk.

The new layout will include a larger children’s section, gained in part by eliminating the traditional reference area, and a distinct teen’s section.

Concerns raised by attendees related to the use of specific spaces. Where and how temporarily exhibited artwork would be stored was one issue. Another was how the branch’s friends group would conduct its ongoing book sales, as the new layout placed its storage in a side room. Collins suggested that the flexible layout allowed for library staff to find space for such uses in the new rooms or lobby area.

The exterior of the Buckhead Branch Library. Renovations will include repairing the walkway canopy and replacing the roof. (File)

Some other concerns had no immediate solution. A drive-through book drop-off box is not possible, Collins said in response to an attendee’s question. Another concern was the loss of a sink in the main meeting room, an existing feature that the architects said was eliminated due to public comments; Collins said it could return to the plan if the budget allows.

One feature that will remain, with only a cleanup, is “The Storyteller,” a collection of sculptures depicting a deer-headed human speaking to a group of dogs. Now wedged against the front of the library, “The Storyteller” was controversially displaced a few years ago from a park at Peachtree and Roswell roads as part of its makeover into a tribute to developer and Aaron’s Inc. rental empire founder Charlie Loudermilk. Along the way, other elements of the sculpture – including several turtles and a rabbit – went missing, with Loudermilk’s son Robin reportedly giving away some of them. A meeting attendee called for the return of the missing pieces, leaving Collins to say, “I don’t know where the rabbits are” and that further sculptures could be a tripping hazard on the sidewalk.

The library system is accepting comments via email at Commenters should identify the Buckhead Library in the subject line of comment emails.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.