In 1913, the Athens Library Association received its charter. For 1 cent per day per item, Athenians could borrow from the small collection of 500 books, which was housed in a room in the Athens Railway and Electric Company Building. The small library had 200 registered readers. The 1 cent per day fee helped pay for rebinding of books and purchase of new books.
Through the years, the Library moved around town as it grew, first to a building adjacent to the National Bank of Athens on Broad Street in 1936, then to the YMCA building at the corner of Lumpkin and Broad streets in 1937, to the Stern House at the corner of Hancock Street and College Avenue in 1949, to Dougherty Street in 1970, and finally to its current home on Baxter Street in 1992.
The Baxter Street building has just completed a $10 million renovation and expansion project, which began in May 2011 and includes two additions and a complete makeover for the entire building. With the additions, the formerly 63,000-square-foot building is now 83,000 square feet. The Library now has a larger Heritage Room for local history and genealogy, a larger and newly designed Children’s Department, more room for books and other materials, and a new 300-seat multipurpose room. With the renovation also came the arrival of self-checkout and an automated materials handling system, which automatically checks in returned items and sorts them into bins for quicker return to the shelves, freeing library staff to assist patrons with more complex requests. A formal dedication and grand opening the building will take place on Sunday, April 7.
In one hundred years, the library’s collection has grown from a small room of books with a weekly story hour for children to a full-service resource center and hub of regional library services with access to thousands of materials, both housed locally and throughout the state, dozens of programs for all ages each month, and more. From 200 registered readers one hundred years ago, the number of registered patrons has grown to over 66,000 in Athens alone. Those patrons checked out more than 1 million items last year.
To commemorate its one hundred years serving the Athens community, the Athens-Clarke County Library will host a month full of exciting programs throughout April. Every department will hold special events, including Family Fun Day sponsored by the Friends of the Athens-Clarke County Library, a visit by Georgia author Joshilyn Jackson, an Edible Book Contest and more. For more information about the library and its special events for April, visit the Athens-Clarke County Library website at www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us.