History of the Forsyth County Public Library
1920 – Present
Records indicate that there was some library service in Forsyth County in the 1920s, when "Aunt Laura" Hockenhull made her private library available to others. She had a private library where young and old could mingle and browse among the books. She also borrowed books and magazines from the Atlanta Public Library for which she charged a small fee to cover the cost of the forty-mile drive into Atlanta.
In 1938, the first formal Forsyth County Public Library was established by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The library collection at this time consisted of 600 volumes. Donations were always a welcome source.
From the thirties to the mid-fifties, the library collection was housed in various buildings throughout Cumming. Summer reading programs were occasionally sponsored by the local PTA. Volunteer librarians and paid librarians (paid $75 a month) were responsible for circulation of the books and magazines. The majority of the funding was received from the Forsyth County Board of Education and from the county.
In 1940, a Summer Story Hour was held weekly on the courthouse lawn and the Forsyth County Bookmobile covered 20 routes through the county as a result of WPA funds. During this time, magazines and Gone with the Wind were among the most popular items.
In the early 1950s, Zane Grey books were most popular. The library was open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays for four hours each day and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Forsyth County Library remained in operation until 1955 when it was closed temporarily due to limited financing.
Due to the fact that many counties were small in area, population, and resources, the Georgia State Board of Education encouraged county libraries to merge and form regional library systems. The Gwinnett and Forsyth libraries formed such a merger in 1956, creating the Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library.
Mrs. Jean Potts became the first full-time librarian in 1957.
In 1958, Dawson County joined the Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library. Because Lake Lanier was a common feature of the three counties, the name was changed to the Lake Lanier Regional Library. The Forsyth Branch of the Lake Lanier Regional Library opened on June 2, 1959.
At this time, more than 200 Forsyth residents had library cards. Circulation was never below 150 and ran as high as 198 some days.
The majority of the libraries in the region were constantly plagued with inadequate space and inadequate funds. Most of the branches were housed in whatever facilities could be found, such as a room in City Hall, an old store, and the basement of an office building. The Forsyth Branch (built in 1966) was one of only two branches built specifically for library use, thanks to funds obtained through the federal Library Services and Construction Act.
As the population of the region began to grow very rapidly, the inadequate space, materials, services, and funds became more and more critical. In 1986, a bond referendum was passed in Gwinnett County that resulted in new facilities for one new and seven existing Gwinnett branches. The Gwinnett collection doubled and additional resources were available to the regional system.
The need for expanded facilities in Forsyth County was also evident. In the late eighties, Forsyth had 3,000 library patrons, and circulation was 62,000 items per year. The library facility had been built to serve a population of 3,700, and the population had expanded to 37,794.
A bond referendum was passed in 1988. This referendum of $2,100,000 was for materials and equipment. In addition, the State of Georgia provided a $2,000,000 construction grant that enabled Forsyth County to construct a new building with greatly expanded technology and services. This new building opened in July 1992. More than 200 persons attended the ceremony, and 3,500 books circulated that day.
The Lake Lanier Regional Library continued to grow and change along with the populations of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. By Fiscal Year 1994, the number of items checked out exceeded 4 million, giving the system the largest circulation in the state of Georgia. However, Dawson County remained a quiet rural community while Forsyth and Gwinnett counties were becoming increasingly suburban.
On July 1, 1994, the Dawson County branch joined the Chestatee Regional system. At this time, the Lake Lanier Regional Library changed its name to Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library.
In the fall of 1995, the Gwinnett County Library Board voted to dissolve the regional library system, and on July 1, 1996, the Forsyth County Branch became an independent library, with Jon McDaniel as the first Library Director. Staff worked very hard to meet the many challenges in this change. Computer records were created for over 110,000 books, tapes, and videos in converting to a new library automation system. The regional library headquarters had been located in Gwinnett County and remained with the Gwinnett system. Therefore, critical library functions previously handled by the regional headquarters were established at the Forsyth location. These included Human Resources, Accounting, Purchasing, Computer Services, Children's Programming, Interlibrary Loan, and Materials (including selection, acquisition, cataloging, and processing).
A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) was passed in April 1996 and again in March 1998 to provide funding to build a new library branch in the South Forsyth area and to purchase land for future branches. With the opening of the Sharon Forks Branch in November 2000, the Forsyth County Public Library gained a second service location, expanded resources, and additional staff.
While planning for the second physical location for Forsyth County Public Library, an "Online Branch" in the form of the library's first website was launched. Patrons had no trouble adapting to the services that were now available to them anywhere they had an Internet connection. One such service was the ability to email questions to reference librarians.
During 2002, circulation in Forsyth County reached one million items. In the year 2007, an Administrative Office building was constructed next to the Cumming Branch. The Administrative Offices provided space for five support departments and positioned the library for inevitable growth. The space had been needed since 1996 when the Cumming Branch became a separate library from the regional system. The Cumming Branch was also renovated to add computers and shelf space. Both projects were funded with a $2,000,000 State Construction Grant and $1,392,227 in Forsyth County Impact Fees.
With the opening of the Hampton Park Library in March 2010, the Forsyth County Public Library gained a third service location and an expanded collection. The Post Road Library opened in August 2013, marking the Forsyth County Public Library's fourth location. This much-anticipated branch includes a LEED-certified building and embraces the newest technology to better serve patrons. A drive-up book drop and automated sorting equipment helps to quickly and efficiently handle returns, while items like tablets and laptops may be checked out for use inside the library.
SPLOST VI funds were approved for the purchase of land for a fifth branch in the northwest section of Forsyth County. Funding for construction is not yet available.
Funds from SPLOST VII, Forsyth County Impact Fees, and a State Construction Grant are currently being applied to a major expansion and repurposing of the Sharon Forks Library. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2016 and to be completed by the end of 2017.
Jon McDaniel, Forsyth County Public Library's first Director, retired in 2015 with special recognition from the Board of Trustees and from the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. The Board of Trustees named former Assistant Director for Support Services Anna Lyle the next Director. Anna began her new duties in December 2015.
In 2015, there were more than 648,000 visits to library branches, more than 2.4 million items checked out, and over 226,000 information questions answered by staff. More than 101,000 patrons attended library programs.
Forsyth County Public Library currently offers more than 405,000 materials for patrons to check out or use in the branches, including books, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, magazines, newspapers and a growing eLibrary collection featuring eBooks, eAudiobooks, eVideos, eMagazines, and eResources.