May 31—MARIETTA — During a recent tour of the newly renovated Switzer Library on Roswell Street, as contractors and county workers put the finishing touches on the building, the word on everyone's lips was "excited."
And with good reason. On Tuesday, Cobb's flagship library will reopen to the public after nearly two years of shuttered doors.
The $9.6 million project has transformed the building, which Central Region Manager Alex Beswick said will offer an array of new amenities while brightening up the 32-year-old structure.
Inside the main entrance, patron services have been consolidated at a central help desk, where guests can seek reference information, check out books, and get connected with the building's new services. Those include a dedicated "maker space," equipped with 3D printers and Apple computers, a family computing space (for parents to work with rambunctious kids in tow), and a dedicated accessibility services room, relocated from Windy Hill Library.
"We brought that service here so people with special needs can feel very welcomed and secure in their own environment," said Cobb Libraries Director Helen Poyer.
"It mainstreams our special population to become a part of our regular population," Beswick added. "So they can use any part of this, and they can do programs in a big room, so there's a lot more options for them being here."
Top to bottom, the building boasts a brighter, warmer, vibrant feel. Out are the drab gray carpets, dim light fixtures, and burnished wood study nooks; in are fresh coats of paint, modern furniture, and new overhead lights.
"It just really brightens it up. You know, you wouldn't think that ceiling tiles would make a difference, but they do," Beswick said.
Renovations took longer than expected due to both the pandemic and issues which weren't revealed until work began. Structural problems with the building's roof had to be addressed mid-project, and COVID-19 created supply chain issues and placed restrictions on the number of workers who could be on-site.
Other amenities include self-checkout kiosks, and enlarged and renovated rooms for public use in the library's western wing (bathrooms, too, got a much-needed update). Most of the kids' areas have been relocated downstairs, along with a second maker space for teens.
"The idea is flexible spaces," Beswick said of a kids' event room which can be expanded or closed off to suit the needs of a range of programs. Just outside is also the renovated courtyard, which will feature playground equipment, and has a new fence around it to make for a safe play area alongside the otherwise busy street.
The crown jewel of the new facility is a relocated Georgia Room, home to the county's historic, rare, and genealogical collections. Moved from a corner area to the far wing of the building, its atrium sports towering windows, which look out onto the green hillsides of Marietta National Cemetery.
Carolyn Crawford, the collection's director, couldn't be more pleased. Recalling the days when the Georgia Room was confined to the old Marietta post office on Atlanta Street, she said the expanded space will be a boon for the collection's patrons, who come far and wide to use its historic resources.
"We're on the snowbirds' path a lot, people (coming) back and forth doing their genealogy. And we have people ... they come regularly from Tennessee and Alabama."
Switzer's debut Tuesday coincides with the reopening for full service of all 15 Cobb libraries for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of locations previously only offered curbside service, and patrons were not permitted to stay in the library for extended periods.