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Children's Room of Central Library

By Jennifer Koniuk

“I have nowhere else to go,” Dave Chase said as he rested his book on his lap. “I’m here until 9 p.m. every night.”

Homeless, Chase finds refuge in  the Central Library every day. “It’s quiet, comfortable and you can get online,” he said.

The three-story Central Library in downtown Winston-Salem appeals to many people for it includes a main reading room, children’s room, fiction section, North Carolina room, information services, audiovisual collections and more. On a recent morning, the library was full of patrons borrowing books, looking at used books for sale, hunting for jobs on computers and simply passing time.

They said the library’s central downtown location is important to them and they love to be there, however, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is currently considering several sites to re-locate the Central Library.

In 2010 voters approved $40 million in library bonds for new or renovated libraries in Winston-Salem, Clemmons and Kernersville. Of that, $27 million has been reserved for the Central Library in Winston-Salem.

The current sites include a parking lot across from the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, the Winston-Salem Journal parking lot, a lot on Green Street, a lot on Chestnut Street, a lot off Salem Avenue, the former Sheriff’s Office building and the current Central Library site on Fifth Street.

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners met on September 26th to discuss the proposed sites but decided to delay any action.

Although public meetings occurred prior to last Wednesday’s meeting, many library patrons said they were unaware of the plans to renovate or relocate the library.

Louise Austin, a resident of Winston-Salem, uses the library quite often for the large variety of books and to make the free photocopies patrons are allotted each month. Although she was initially unaware of the proposed sites for the Central Library, she was one of the library patrons who said they object the proposed move.

“I don’t like [this idea] at all,” said Austin, a resident of Winston-Salem. “This is the best location a Central Library could be.”

While sitting down in an aisle surrounded by books, Austin said that she thinks the current library location provides the best access to different parts of downtown, benefiting her and others.

Austin recognizes that the library is over 100 years old and believes that the best decision would be for the current library to be renovated.

“This is a historical landmark and it needs to stay,” she said.

Other patrons who regularly go to the Central Library said they were completely unaware of the plans to either renovate or relocate.

“I didn’t know they were considering moving the library,” said Victoria Gelo as she sat on the floor next to a young boy in a stroller in the children’s room.

Gelo, a nanny for a family in Winston-Salem, goes to the Central Library twice a week, every week, to read children’s books to the young boy and to bring him to the free alphabet classes.

As the boy sat in his stroller with a book on his lap, Gelo said that she’s only allowed to take him a certain radius so the library re-location could prevent them from coming.

“What would we do on Monday mornings?” she asked the boy while chuckling to herself.

Many library patrons, whether regulars or occasional users, share the fact that they lack information regarding the library proposals but they also share the same passion for the current Central Library that stands on Fifth Street.

It continues to remain undecided whether the library will relocate or undergo renovations but the Board of Commissioners will review all the sites again on October 10th.

Published October 2, 2013

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