Midtown Raleigh News

Wake County presents changes for Athens Drive library

Wake county and school system officials presented changes to the Athens Drive Community Library on Thursday night that will keep the facility open to the public.

The library, which is part of Athens Drive High School and serves as the school’s library as well, was going to close to the public last month.

But long-time patrons and residents near the library spoke out against the decision and asked the county and school system to find a solution to problems that would have closed the library to the general public.

County manager Jim Hartmann said county and Wake schools staff worked quickly to find something that worked for both parties.

“People were asking and worried and anxious about what’s going to happen to our library,” said community member Yevonne Brannon, a county commissioner from 1996 to 2000.

Director of Wake County Public Libraries Michael Wasilick presented changes the county will make in the coming weeks to quell security and other concerns Wake schools had with the unique setup, which has been in place since the 1980s.

The Athens Drive Community Library will now have county and school system employees, and the county’s staffing will include a security guard, Wasilick said. The county will hire a library branch manager, which will free the school system from running the county’s operations in the library, which was one complaint from the school system.

In July, Wake schools attorney Benita Jones told the county in a memo that the school system was taking too much responsibility for what was supposed to be a county operation. Financially, the school system was also subsidizing the cost of staffing the library because the county was not paying the library staff on par with what other library employees made in the Wake County school system, the memo said.

With a branch manager and a clear separation of staff, there shouldn’t be any more issues with staffing, said county manager Hartmann.

The county will install larger and more recognizable signs on Avent Ferry Road and Athens Drive to let people know there is a library, and signs directing visitors to the library will be placed around the campus. The county also will add programming and additional parking spots reserved for library patrons.

Athens Drive’s hours also will be extended. Starting Sept. 8, the public will be able to visit the library from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

That change won’t just benefit the public, said school board member Jim Martin, who represents the district that includes Athens Drive High School. Extending hours gives students access to library resources after school and on weekends.

“The value (of the library) is that the collection is used extensively by students and teachers,” Martin said. “It’s helpful to have a gathering place.”

The county was able to iron out issues the school system had with library operations, but long-time patrons and neighbors of the library still want to see improvements.

Brannon said the community will continue to meet informally to monitor how the library is doing and suggest changes to county commissioners. At Thursday’s meeting, residents already had suggestions.

Brannon suggested finding a way to provide better wireless service. Other patrons suggested adding bicycle racks and providing more information about county library services.

The county will hold a meeting in September to begin hearing some of those ideas. The goal is to make the Athens Drive library more like other community libraries, Wasilick said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh