~ By Yevonne Brannon ~

Southwest Raleigh is a vibrant, diverse and engaged district in Wake County and this diversity is reflected in the users of the Athens Drive Community Public Library.  September 2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of the library that has served thousands of citizens throughout our district including a diverse African American, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, and Caucasian population of library users. Students from pre-school through college, entrepreneurs, rich, poor, children, retirees, people without cars/internet/computers, and home schoolers are all patrons of the facility. The library is located inside Athens Drive High School, and the largest population it serves are the students who attend Athens Drive, NC Wesleyan College students attending night school, and thousands of Wake Tech students (even the pre-school Baby Jags program uses the library!).

Two years ago, in June of 2015, this valuable resource almost closed its doors.  The community learned that Wake County planned to close our public library less than a month before it was set to happen.

Wake County Commissioner “Superheroes”

When community members saw a sign posted in the library announcing the library’s imminent closing, they were outraged.  Meetings sprouted up overnight and the community got organized in their fight to keep the library. The outcry was so significant and the case for keeping the library so strong, that the Wake County Commissioners reversed their decision and sought ways to not just keep the library but improve it!  Over the years, parking, security, and hours of operation had negatively impacted the use of the library. With the new commitment from our County Commissioners, the county hired security guards and implemented other new security measures, including installing an access control system.  Library hours were expanded, allowing the library to serve the public for a total of 60 operating hours per week.

Staffing to accommodate the increased hours and additional programming was improved with the hiring of a library manager, a librarian who specializes in children’s programming, and four part-time library assistants.  About 15 new signs were placed on Avent Ferry Road and Athens Drive to help guide people to the library more easily, and the book drop box was moved closer to the school entrance most accessible to the library.

Athens High Jaguar

Parking had been the biggest problem and the school allowed the county to install “library parking only” allowing the public to identify where to park. Parking has since doubled for daytime users and more library parking is being added this fall.

To celebrate the “reopening” of our new, old library, an Open House was held on September 12th.  Wake County Commissioners attended and the place was packed with hundreds of visitors!

So how have the past two years gone for the Athens Drive Community Library?  The circulation is up at the library by 23% (Juvenile Graphic Novels are up the most with a 65% increase in checkouts). This is remarkable and shows how the community can have meaningful input into decisions that impact their quality of life.

The Athens Drive Community Library is a case study for how the community can engage their elected officials in a WIN –WIN for the community and for the citizens it serves.  Kudos to the Commissioners for listening and then acting!

The library is open Monday-Friday 10 from a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

FUN FACT:  Wake County Libraries as a whole had an excellent summer with 1,055,963 Checkouts in July 2017.