Work progressing on Lovejoy library

By Justin Reedy

Thanks to a library that will be built on McDonough Road near Lovejoy, residents of southern Clayton County will no longer have such a long drive ahead of them if they want to check out a book.

But they'll have to wait until 2005 to use the new facility.

Design work has started on the new Lovejoy Branch Library, the latest addition to the Clayton County library system, and construction is expected to begin by November, county officials say. With a projected 14-month construction window, the new library will be finished in January 2005, according to Carol Stewart, director of library services for Clayton County.

The project has been delayed somewhat because of design disagreements with the original architectural firm, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, but on Tuesday a new designer was selected for the library. The original firm n which designed the headquarters library and branch libraries in Morrow and Riverdale n wanted to stick with modern design, while county officials were interested in a more traditional, brick-and-mortar look.

"They told me the didn't do anything but modern architecture," explained Crandle Bray, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners.

That's when the county decided to go to another contractor, Bray said, and on Tuesday the county commission awarded a $140,000 contract for the library design to Atlanta-based architect Leo A. Daly.

Some of the conceptual drawings the new firm have drawn up match much closer to what the county was looking for in the library's design, commissioners say.

"They look a lot better than the first one," Commissioner Gerald Matthews said.

Though the county Library Board of Trustees had originally been interested in a modern design like previous ones by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam, they are pleased with the commission's ideas for a more traditional building, Stewart said.

"We're really excited," she said. "I think it's a lovely design we're going with."

The planned facility will cost about $2 million, with the county providing the land for the building and about a half-million dollars with the remainder of the funding coming from the state.

This proposed library is just in time for south Clayton County, officials say, since that area has been growing rapidly in recent years.

"It's very much needed in that area of the county," said state Sen. Terrell Starr, D-Jonesboro. "The south end of the county is growing so fast n we need a library in Lovejoy real bad."

Travel time was also an important consideration, officials said, with the Jonesboro branch library being the one furthest south.

"With traffic, people (in the southern end of the county) are 30 minutes away from our Jonesboro branch and 40 minutes away from our headquarters (on Battle Creek Road)," Stewart said. "Plus, the concentration of schools down there n according to the Census data, there's more than 24,000 people living right around there."

The county is planning on building a 12,000-square-foot branch library with shelving for 60,000 books. It would have 24 personal computers, library seating for 82 people, and a meeting room with space for 45 people. The initial design calls for brick exterior walls, a skylight that runs nearly the length of the building, and an enclosed fireplace in the adult reading room.

"This is going to be a wonderful facility," Bray said.

The site for the proposed library is next to the Clayton County soccer complex on McDonough Road, near Lovejoy High School.