Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Central Branch


The Issue:

In the course of this year, Fulton County, represented by it's commissioners, has created a master plan for the entire public library system. This master plan essentially renovates, overhauls, and upgrades the entire public library system. Meaning that, some new libraries will be built, others will be restored. At the center of all this are John Eaves (district 1), Commission Chairman and Commissioner At Large, Rob Pitts (district 2) Commissioner At Large, and Tom Lowe (district 4).

Now originally, the Central Branch, which is the crown jewel of the entire library system, was slated for a much needed renovation. And as best I know, that renovation was voted on by the board of commissioners and as a result of a majority "yea" vote, the building was assured a safe, secure future. Then, in a surprise twist, just weeks before the final vote was to take place on the library master plan (which then becomes a bond referendum for public vote in November) one of the commissioners, Mr. Rob Pitts, made a motion to amend the master plan. This amendment would take the money already allotted for the Central Branch and divert it toward the construction cost of building, what I suppose he considers, a bigger, better (visually and technologically au courant) public library. And herein lies the problem and the heated debate that has ensued. Because, as it stands, some (including myself) see this as a rather Faustian deal. On the surface it sounds good, but when one realizes that this newer, grander library would come at the expense of one of Atlanta's most iconic and historically significant architectural structures, the amended plan starts to seem questionable.


Because, progress should not come at the price of preservation. And furthermore, if we are struggling to take care of what we have, why burden ourselves with something new?

But let's be clear about this. Bigger, better, not a bad thing. In fact, it can sometimes be good. However, we must be (with satisfaction) able to challenge and address the concerns for all parties involved. We can't just move full steam ahead without looking both ways, as this might surely lead to disaster. In short, in some, way, shape or form, the future of the existing Central Branch must be affirmed and ensured.