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Move Over Starbucks. The Public Library is Back.

Dekalb County's newly remodeled libraries offer more than just books. Let's hope Stone Mountain's Hairston Crossing branch will be among them soon.

Confession: I love the public library. I don't have a lot of time for a lot of things, yet I spend at least three hours each week reading, studying, or browsing at a Dekalb County public library. I was originally a Chamblee resident, and the Embry Hills Branch was the first of the newly remodeled locations that I frequented.  As more projects came to completion, though, I realized I hadn't seen anything yet.

What makes a good library? Is it close proximity to home? Knowledgeable librarians? A diverse selection of reading material?  Free access to the Internet? Or is it something more?  From the looks of the amazing new libraries in Dekalb County, it's obvious that it's that and much more.

The library traditionally has been regarded as a place of quiet study. In recent years national chains such as Starbucks and Barnes & Nobles have offered the same promise of quiet along with free wi-fi, delicious refreshments, and a welcoming yet trendy atmosphere. How could the public library keep up?  The answer is obvious - it couldn't.

Thankfully, Dekalb County has taken public expectation  into consideration with the functional yet appealing designs of its remodeled branches. Branches like the Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Branch offer patrons more than just a comprehensive book and media collection. With comfortable chairs, a large double sided fireplace and an expanded computer area, patrons can get the look and feel of retail hang out with lack of pretentiousness you've come to expect from a public library.

The Hairston Crossing branch of the Dekalb Public Library System - in the heart of Stone Mountain-Redan - has been closed for remodeling for some time.  Originally slated to re-open in November 2010, the library still remains closed, mainly because of budget cuts.

The plan for the renovated library was to expand it from 4,000 square feet to 18,000 and increase the number of books by more than fivefold, to 53,000. The newly expanded library will have a modern design, expanded parking, 10 additional computers, and a teen area, among other things.

According to Janet Florence of the system's public information office, the slowed flow of funding has forced the board to "make some decisions," about how to open and operate Hairston Crossing and two others, the Salem-Panola and Stonecrest branches.

"The hope is that we'll still be able to open that (Hairston Crossing branch) this spring," she said. 

Some decisions will be announced soon, she said. Let's hope it's good news for all of us library fans out there. 

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