The new Clemmons branch library opened recently. The entire process took 11 years, from the time the 2010 campaign to pass the Library Bonds began to the construction of the new library branch in the heart of Clemmons. Commissioner Don Martin described the grand opening of the new library branch as “a day when everybody can be happy.” The Winston-Salem Journal is certainly pleased with the new library. The community’s newspaper of record described the new library branch as ‘futuristic’ and ‘fantastic.’ But it’s hard to describe a library so many years in the making as futuristic. The facility should have been built a decade ago. As it stands for the last 10-20 years, the Clemmons library branch has been too damn small to serve its children, students, and patrons adequately. The old cramped and outdated conditions at the former Clemmons library branch are similar to the current conditions at the East Winston library branch (officially referred to as the Malloy/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center).
For those who remember the old Central Library, the East Winston library branch is a smaller version, a separate but unequal version of the original library before it was expanded in the 1970s. The original Central Library on Fifth Street opened in 1953. The East Winston Library branch on East Seventh Street opened the next year, in 1954. The East Winston library branch is housed in a mere 5,800-square-foot building (Clemmons old library was 8,900 square feet) that’s been refurbished several times over the years, the last of which was just a few years ago. But refurbishing a relic only does so much good. There is no substitute for additional space and modern design elements. Quite simply, a modest library built before the Voting Rights Act of 1964 was passed is not good enough today.
If the Forsyth County Commissioners had respected the people’s will, they would have issued the library bonds that voters overwhelmingly approved and constructed new libraries for Winston, Kernersville, and Clemmons in a timely fashion. Instead, a divided Board of Commissioners decided not to build the three libraries concurrently. They waited until one library project was completed before starting the next one. The Commissioner’s logic was that a piecemeal approach would help to lower the County’s debt load. But the Commissioners ignored the fact that construction costs almost always increase over time. By taking a decade to build three libraries, the Commissioners got less library for the taxpayer’s dollars.
The newish Central Library, Kernersville branch, and brand new Clemmons library branch are fine structures. But the Commissioner’s excessive delays in delivering our libraries should not be soon forgotten. Nor should we forget that East Winston still needs a new library branch.
Public libraries have been called “democracy in action” by The Nation. But democracy moves slowly in Forsyth County.
2010-Voters approved bonds
2014-Central Library closed
2017-New Central Library
2019-New Kernersville Library
2021-New Clemmons Library
(Grand opening, mid-June) pic.twitter.com/pf2LpfSLJM
— Winston Watchman (@WinstonWatchman) May 24, 2021
A new Clemmons Library opened last week, replacing the old library on Clemmons Road that was cramped and outdated. The $5.6-million library was part of a $40-million bond project voters approved in 2010. https://t.co/IMWaobZ4xC
— Winston-Salem Journal (@JournalNow) June 20, 2021