Saturday, March 02, 2024

Large Crowd Turns Out For Grand Opening Of New Oconee County Library At Wire Park

***State Librarian Praises Location Of Library***

More than 125 people put aside the cold and overcast weather on Saturday to turn out for the official opening of the new Oconee County Library at Wire Park in Watkinsville.

That official opening lasted only about 15 minutes–culminating in a ribbon cutting--and was followed by informal tours of the new facility and a full day of programming, with an uncounted number of participants.

Athens Regional Library System Director Valerie Bell presided over the formal part of the program and was joined on the stage by local officials who played key roles in construction of the new $4.7 million facility.

The new library, as well as the newly renovated Bogart Library, are part of the Athens Regional Library System.

Featured speaker on the program was Julie Walker, State Librarian and Vice Chancellor for Libraries and Archives in the University System of Georgia.

“The day that we open a new library is always my very favorite day,” she said.

“This library is such a gift to your community, and I really can’t think of another community that would enjoy it and take advantage of it as much as Watkinsville and Oconee County,” she said.

The new facility replaces the Oconee County Library on Experiment Station Road, which has been closed since Thanksgiving to allow for the move to the new Wire Park Location, 1725 Electric Avenue, off Barnett Shoals Road.

Library Details

The new library, a single-story building with a partially bricked exterior, has 20,000 square feet of space—3,000 square feet more than the building on Experiment Station Road. An additional 5,000 square feet are available for future expansion.

Bell 3/2/2024

The Library has a 1,100 square foot meeting room that can be partitioned into two separate rooms, a new collaborative maker space, and expanded teen space.

The state contributed $3.3 million to the new facility, and Oconee County contributed $1.3 million. The city of Watkinsville added $60,000 to the project.

Walker acknowledged the work and support of Rep. Marcus Wiedower, Rep. Houston Gaines, and Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represent Oconee County in the General Assembly, as well as of Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell and Watkinsville Mayor Brian Brodrick.

The library building is a converted metal frame warehouse donated by Duke Gibbs, developer of Wire Park, a multi-use facility still under development in what was the Southwire manufacturing plant.

“I love that this library is in this mixed-use area,” Walker said, “because I feel that the library should be at the center of every community.”

“So I hope that everyone here, when you come to get your taco or your ice cream cone, please get a book and enjoy everything and all of the programs that the Library has to offer.”

Daniell and Brodrick

Walker had been preceded on the program by both Chairman Daniell and Mayor Brodrick.

Walker 3/2/2024

“We’re here to celebrate years and years of planning and raising money to come to this day,” Daniell said.

He thanked the Library Board of Trustees for its work on the project as well as James Mitchell, Branch Manager for Oconee County Library.

“Just moving the books over was a huge endeavor,” Daniell said.

Brodrick seconded Daniell’s recognition of Mitchell, saying “It has not been easy to be a librarian and a library person in the past year for a lot of reasons.”

“But libraries are places of learning, places of love, and not places of politics,” he said. “And that’s what I hope this place becomes. That’s what I hope it stays. And that is how I want it to remain.”

Brodrick thanked Gibbs, saying “Four years ago this was a vacant building. Twenty years ago it was six acres of industry under roof. And today is has been reborn as something spectacular that we an all enjoy.”

“Our goal in Watkinsville is to build a community where people connect,” Brodrick said. “Our tag line is Come, Connect, Create. And the Library creates that opportunity for everybody, every day that it is open.”

Other Speakers

Clint Watson, representing Gibbs Capital, said Gibbs bought the property in 2019 “with a vision to create a gathering place where families and communities can come together and share time together and create memories.”

“When we learned that it would be an opportunity for the Library to come here, we jumped all over it because we knew,” he said, “how important libraries are to communities.”

Board of Trustees Chair Mark Campell added to the list of those to be thanked the “plumbers, electricians, or painters even down to the little small details some people may not notice but they worked hard to make sure those details are taken care of.”

As the program approached its end, Bell told those gathered that “When it is all said and done, the most important asset of any library goes home at night. And that is the library staff.”

To introduce the staff, Bell called forward “your amazing Branch Manager James Mitchell.”

“I want to thank the community,” Mitchell said, “who has been very supportive and understanding after a few delays here and there.” The opening had been planned for Feb. 3 but was pushed back for a number of reasons, including delay in the delivery of the furniture.

“The two most important parts of a library are the staff and then the community who use it,” he said.

Mitchell then called up and introduced nine member of the staff present. Three persons, he said, were not able to attend.

Ribbon Cutting

Bell ended the presentations by asking the audience: “Are you ready? Let’s cut that ribbon.”

Ribbon Cutting 3/2/2024

The speakers then moved from the covered stage at the entrance to the shops at Wire Park to the entranceway to the Library, where a ribbon had been stretched.

After some adjustment to get the hands of Bell, Daniell and Mitchell on the handles of the large scissors, they closed it.

The ribbon was resistant, but Mitchell finally pulled it apart.

“Welcome to the Library,” Bell shouted, raising her hands and turning to walk toward the main entrance.

Many in the crowd followed her.


I arrived at the library prior to the presentations and walked through a nearly empty facility.

The video below begins with that walk through and then moves to the beginning of the formal program.

Bell’s initial comments are at 1:43 in the video.

Daniell spoke at 2:58 in the video, followed by Brodrick at 3:57.

Watson spoke at 5:55

Walker began her comments at 8:06 in the video.

Campbell began his comments at 10:29.

Mitchell began speaking at 14:04.

The ribbon cutting is at 16:53 in the video.

I followed the crowd into the library after the ribbon cutting.

A series of clips from that second visit begins at 17:57 in the video.

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