Shh! This is a quiet reminder that the Sandy Springs Library at 395 Mt. Vernon Highway NE is back in business.
Like other public libraries in Georgia and across the country, the Sandy Springs Library had to close its doors during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now, something that we have taken for granted for decades has reopened.
This can’t be easily dismissed. Even before the pandemic, it must be remembered that Generation Z, even more than the Millennial generation before them, grew up with the Internet at their fingertips. “To Google” is now a verb. So, who needs a public library? Just the Baby Boomers who recall doing their homework research at the library, poring through microfilm or microfiche, and trying to understand the Dewey Decimal System?
Absolutely not, say librarians. The new and improved public libraries are now more like community centers for the brain. There are no gymnasiums, yoga classes or swimming pools. But there are meeting and study rooms, GED classes – at least at the Central Library branch – through a partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools System Adult Education Program, computers and free Internet.
Depending on which Internet source one uses, the first free modern public library was opened in 1833 in New Hampshire. It was the first institution funded by a municipality with the specific goal of establishing a free library open to everyone in the community. According to another source, the first public library supported by taxes in this country was the Boston Public Library, established in 1848 but not open to the public until 1854.
The current Fulton County Library System – in which the Sandy Springs Library is located – began in 1902 as the Carnegie Library of Atlanta, one of the first public libraries in the country. Thirty-three years later, the City of Atlanta and the Fulton County Board of Commissioners signed a contract that extended library service throughout the county. In the early 1980s, responsibility for the library system was transferred from Atlanta to Fulton County and it was renamed the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library.
Although the new Atlanta central library was opened in 1980, a major renovation was completed in 2002 in honor of the centennial of when library service was first offered to the public. Two years later, the library system introduced Sirsi’s Unicorn, a state-of-the-art library automation system that includes iBistro, a virtual portal to resources at the library and throughout the world via the Internet.
The Sandy Springs Library is one of the county’s largest. In 2017, it underwent a huge renovation that included modernization with a new layout, technology and furniture. Meeting spaces were improved and study rooms added, along with a teen center, according to Claudia Strange, marketing director for the Fulton County Library System.
Following the renovation funded by a Library Bond Program, the Sandy Springs Library “reopened to the public in the summer of 2019 with a lot of excitement from the community. Unfortunately, six months later, Covid struck and doors were closed for nearly a year. While staff did return to provide curbside service in the summer of 2020, a full reopening would not take place until June 2021,” Strange said.
She acknowledged that while the return to the library for in-person services was slow at first, “the Sandy Springs Library continues to serve large numbers of patrons every week.” Those patrons have access not only to books, but eBooks, e-Audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, books on CD, books on MP3 as well as videos. Cardholders may check out as many as 50 items at a time.
For those wondering, there are still free library cards! Visit the Sandy Springs Library (or one of the other 33 branches in the Fulton County Library System), complete an application, show identification with current name and address and shazam, you can get a card immediately. Or, you can apply online as well.
There are library cards for children, library cards for teachers, even library cards if you own a business or property in the county. Fines for overdue books are 10 cents a day or a maximum of $5. But if you steal any library property, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
As part of the Fulton County system, Sandy Springs patrons can use the Interlibrary Loan (or ILL). This is a process that allows the library system to borrow items from other libraries around the country. And it can be done online.
Unlike the “old days,” don’t think of a library as an insulated, quiet, tomb-like facility. Special passes with discounts can get patrons into Zoo Atlanta, the Center for Puppetry Arts, the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, the William Breman Jewish Museum, the Georgia Aquarium, Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, and, if you are adventurous, even the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon or the Go Fish Education Center in Perry.
Truly, nowadays, a simple library card can open the world to you and your family.