Chapel Hill Public Library begins new chapter

tgrubb@newsobserver.comApril 7, 2013 

  • If You Go

    The Chapel Hill Public Library’s official dedication will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20. The event will include a magician, a poem from the Sacrificial Poets, bands and library employee John Hill and a friend. Hill plays the mandolin with the Big Fat Gap bluegrass band.

— The wait is over. You’ll be able to check out the $16.2 million Chapel Hill Public Library expansion when the doors open this week.

Interim Director Mark Bayles shepherded the library during its time at University Mall and the roughly three-week move back to the 32-acre Pritchard Park, off Estes Drive.

This incarnation of the library – the fourth since 1958 – provides flexible space that will meet the community’s needs for a long time to come, he said..

“I love the maple look of it, and of course, the grand room is just beautiful with the filtering of the light through the louvers,” he said. “Nature is right there.”

Bayles took over in September when former director Kathy Thompson retired. On May 20, the library will get its new director, Susan Brown. The former Carrboro Cybrary manager currently is a marketing director for the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas. She has a master’s degree from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.

Brown writes on her blog at that she is looking forward to making Chapel Hill’s library “a deeply engaged community anchor and essential destination.”

By the numbers

• Patrons: Chapel Hill has the state’s busiest public library per capita. About 1,085 people visit daily and 375,000 people each year.

• Hours: Reduced to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday-Friday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

• Parking: 199 spaces in two lots

• Building: Two entrances and 63,000 square feet, more than double the original 27,000 square feet. Roughly 200 desk areas, all of which have electrical outlets, four two-person study rooms and two six-person study rooms. Windows are 10 feet tall and larger to let in natural light, with louvers to prevent glare. LEED Silver for energy efficiency.

• Materials: 187,000 books, videos, DVDs and more but capacity for 350,000. A $150,000 Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation grant will add more materials.

• Coming home: Hallett Library Movers and Consultants packed the books a shelf at a time, four shelves to a box. The entire process took five, roughly 14-hour days, including filling the new shelves

• Landscape: The steep site filters water to four “ponds” filled with rocks, grasses and plants, including penstemon “Prairie Dusk,” “heavy metal” switchgrass, Cloud Nine, jasmine and rubeckia.

State of the art

• Eight automated check-out systems

• Wireless printing from personal laptops

• Separate town and public Internet systems. Twenty public computers, a classroom with 20 stations, and 24 laptops (available only for town or community group training) provided by the CHPL Foundation.

• Four electronic sign boards and a larger community board and media center at the upper entrance.

• A magnification machine to help visually impaired readers see books more clearly. The machine also reads books aloud.

• Two computer stations and, a software training and tutorial video library, will provide individualized training

• A digital media lab, provided through a CHPL Foundation grant, offers “prosumer level” equipment for limited recording and editing film and sound files. A manager will work with the public for the first six months.

Room for everybody

• Children: Double the space and more books; a reading room for more than 40 children; four computers and three Early Literacy stations. The Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library paid $150,000 to create the “enchanted forest” theme: Squirrels, sparrows and owls are carved into smaller chairs, and a double-sided mural by local artist Michael Brown will reflect different views of the same scene.

• Teens: A dedicated room with wider chairs and window seats. Multiple tables and chairs, four computers and a 70-inch HDTV screen for movies and games.

• Meeting rooms: The public meeting space has grown to 5,200 square feet, including four rooms that hold from 12 to 144 people. All are connected to a central media network and have 70-inch HDTV screens. The two largest rooms feature Smart Boards, and there is a catering kitchen . A quiet reading room for periodicals is located downstairs.

• Friends: The Friends have a sorting room for donated books and a store that opens daily on the lower level. The CHPL Foundation also has an office.

Looking back

• 1958: Chapel Hill’s first public library opens at 115 W. Franklin St.

• 1967: New library built with bond money opens at 523 E. Franklin St.

• 1985-86: Planning starts for new library and voters approve new bond to pay for its construction

• 1994: Expanded library opens at 32-acre Pritchard Park off Estes Drive

• 2003: Voters approve $16.23 million library expansion bond

• 2011: Library moves to University Mall and construction starts

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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