New Clemmons library finally opens

Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Highly anticipated $6.6M project features more space, variety of rooms and technology

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

During his comments in the grand opening ceremony for the new library in Clemmons, Commissioner Don Martin admitted “this has been a while in coming. It’s been more than 10 years since the library bond passed.”

So prior to last Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the 20,000-square-foot facility, Martin said he spent an hour and a half “trying out the new library.”

He liked what he saw, saying that the Forsyth County Public Library Clemmons Branch checked off all the boxes and met the expectations of the county and the town. The final price tag for the total project was $6.6 million, including construction costs of $5.6 million.

“I think you all will agree with me that this facility is something I believe all of us should be proud of for years and years to come,” he told a large crowd that gathered under and around a white tent in the parking lot before the official opening on a glorious late spring morning. “And as someone said when I walked up today, they said, you know it’s nice when it’s a day where everybody can be happy.”

First, Martin wanted to make sure to go through his list of what residents were looking for in those early community meetings and submissions of online comments. That included a drive-through materials return, lots of natural light in the building, more parking, an outdoor reading space and courtyard, study rooms, distinct children’s spaces and additional computers.

Then it came down to picking an architect and having the right look, and West & Stem was selected as the architect. That was followed by finding a “wonderful site,” which also included extending James Street to make the connection to Stadium Drive.

I.L. Long was then chosen to build it, and when the project started and was over budget, “a whole lot of work was done on value engineering,” Martin said.

Then there were opportunities for more feedback from the village council and community members before the final plan was executed.

Mayor John Wait, who stepped to the podium, offered his take: “I know we have some projects where it’s easier than others. This one had its bumps, but you guys were fantastic and as commissioner Martin made it clear, we got there. I think it looks excellent.”

Wait also offered his appreciation to the village council, staff and Friends of the Library for all their work..

Along with all the government officials and staff members, many residents — young and old alike — were eager to get inside after the ribbon-cutting to check out the all the extra space, rooms and technology.

Long ago, Clemmons outgrew the previous library, which was built in 1984 on Clemmons Road and only had 8,500 square feet. It is located less than a mile from the new branch. Of course, the village had less than 6,000 people back then before being incorporated and now has more than 20,000 residents.

“The community has grown a lot faster than the library facility did, but we’re finally here,” said Damon Sanders-Pratt, who is assistant county manager and has been in charge of the project. “It seems like a long journey, however the planning, the thoughtfulness that went into it, the craftsmanship and the staff tried to make sure that the work was done in a quality way because it’s going to last for a half a century.”

In the $40 million bond referendum that Forsyth County voters approved in 2010, funding also included a major renovation of the downtown Central Library in Winston-Salem and building a new branch library in Kernersville — both of which were completed years ago.

Ground was broken for the Clemmons Branch in August 2019. The extra space includes a large auditorium and collaborative technology in all the meeting spaces in addition to gaming stations, a 3D printer, a 3D laser-cutting printer, self-checkout and updated public computers for all ages.

The previous library closed on May 29 to allow time for the move to the new facility.

“You know what it’s like to just move a room in your house?” Martin asked. “Imagine moving a library from the old branch over here and getting everything ready for today. That’s been a mammoth project.”

Decca Slaughter, who was the librarian at the Southside Branch, has taken over in the same role in the new Clemmons library. Carolyn Price, the longtime librarian at the previous location, was moved to the Southside Branch, “so we kind of switched places,” Price said.

Price, who said she is retiring July 9, was recognized in remarks by Donna Staley, the library board chair.

“I want to acknowledge the work and contributions that the library and staff have made to the community for years while working and serving at the Clemmons Branch,” Staley said. “I  especially want to acknowledge Carolyn Price. Carolyn is the current branch supervisor at the Southside Branch. She was a great librarian and supervisor here and though she will be soon be entering a much deserved retirement, she made a positive impact here helping to lay the foundation for continued excellence in stellar library services.”

Price said that although she was not part of the actual move, she was involved in a lot of the planning.

When asked about the new library, she said, “It’s great. There’s just space for everything, and there’s actually some extra space, something we didn’t have. There are all the extra little rooms, which will be great. There’s so much light. It’s so opening and welcoming when you look at this and what we had. This will be my home library.”

Brian Hart shared that he is not only the Forsyth County library director, “I am excited to say that I am also your neighbor. My family moved to Clemmons from Kernersville in March, and this will be our home branch. I am excited about the possibility that this branch offers my three-generation household (which include his mother and three children). I love the sense of community and the fact that so many of you have told us what the library has meant and still means to each of you.”

As for the future of the now empty previous library, which the county owns, there has been a “Property For Sale” sign — with a minimum bid of $788,000 — up for some time.

Sanders-Pratt said earlier this year that he expected the county could declare a surplus and make it available for sale. And that’s what has happened, but so far there has been no successful deal.

“There was an initial offer, and then there were some particulars that didn’t work out with that particular deal,” he said,  “so they placed it back out and just waiting for a response.”