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Doco libraries set for sales tax renovations

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- To say that Teresa Cole is excited about the possible renovations to the Dougherty County Library System is an understatement.

As director of the system, Cole knows all too well the complaints of patrons and workers.

At the central branch downtown alone, complaints often find their way through the building and up to the third floor, where Cole heads all library operations.

The sections are too cramped; there are blind aisles, and half-floors and one total floor are being under-utilized.

And then there is the public safety issues that Cole hears about from concerned visitors.

"We have a few spots where there are blind hallways where patrons have expressed varying levels of concern about safety," Cole said. "While I don't believe downtown is one of the more dangerous areas of towns, we have an obligation to ensure that our patrons are safe while in our care."

For all these reasons and more, County Administrator Richard Crowdis and county staff are prepared to dedicate more than $5 million of sales tax dollars from the upcoming Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI referendum for a complete renovation of the central library and repair and maintenance upgrades to the other library branches throughout the county.

For the downtown location, Cole said the general plan is to open up the spaces as much as possible.

Specifically, Cole said the library is in dire need of opening up the genealogy department and the young adult department.

"We have one of the best genealogy departments in south Georgia and have people from across the country stop and browse our records, but we've crammed about as much stuff into the space as we can," Cole said. "We have to do something to make our resources more accessible to the public."

The children's department will likely be doubled in size under the renovation, a move Cole said is vital given the fact that presently, when the library hosts storytelling events, children are forced to pile into the small, tight area in a way that hinders their chance of absorbing the message.

The money will also fund major overhauls on all four floors of the central branch and make the fourth floor fully accessible to the public once again.

In addition to the redesign, Cole said much of the library's existing technology will be upgraded and improved, providing better access to records both on site and through Internet databases.

But while the downtown library will be the major beneficiary of the SPLOST VI funding allocated to the library system, the county's other branches will have earmarks of their own.

Funding will be allocated for repairs of the roof at the Southside Library, as well as to perform much-needed maintenance on the structure to ensure that it sticks around as long as possible, Cole said.

Westtown Library is set to receive roughly $700,000 for roof repairs and renovations, while at least $60,000 is set to fund a roof replacement at the Southside Library branch.