As the digital age sets in, libraries need to adapt. No longer just the place where books are stored, libraries must become a hub of knowledge, diversity, art and technology.
The new Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center (2051 Lower Roswell Road in Marietta) embodies all of the things a modern library should be and more. Since its opening on Monday, December 4, the library has outshone its predecessor, East Marietta Library, by merging arts and literature into one facility.
“This consortium allows families to enter one building and then to pursue their own personal interests, whether they be music production, reading novels, taking an art class or watching a performance,” said Jimmy Gisi, Cobb Parks and Recreation director, whose agency partnered with the library on its design and construction. “This concept is another example of how Cobb County is working to maximize our resources for the residents in our community.”
Featuring 28,000 square feet of study rooms, classrooms and more, the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center was greeted with wonder by visitors during its opening week. “On opening day, I spoke to a couple who were walking around the library,” said Helen Poyer, library director. “They were amazed at all the special features. ‘Wow’ was the reaction to the beautiful art gallery.”
Wow is right. The facility features an art gallery, children and teen spaces, vinyl music collections, conference rooms, an outdoor amphitheater, a black box theatre, jewelry making equipment and video-conference rooms. The facility also contains a digital maker space commons, where visitors can find a recording studio, practice rooms and access unique software such as Adobe Creative Cloud and ProTools.
In addition to these amenities, the library also will host regularly scheduled classes — such as art, photography and writing — in addition to live performances and classic film screenings.
“By bringing together all of these amazing resources under one roof and adding the talents of Parks and Library staff, along with involvement from the local arts community, this will be a world-class facility for learning and experiencing the arts,” said Library Manager James Mitchell, who developed the concept for the facility. “People of all ages will have access to learn and explore in a way that was never possible before.”
The $10.6-million Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center is located near the site once occupied by the East Marietta Library, which was demolished in mid-October after 50 years on Lower Roswell Road. Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce said the facility is a 21st-century library meant to appeal to a large variety of people. When asked about his favorite section of the new library, Boyce said he loves having access to first-edition books, but he also noted the video-heavy portions of the center, which are great for kids.
“The access to recording technologies and having performance series that allows artists to showcase their talents is key to engaging younger generations,” Mitchell added. “The diverse range of new mediums offered, such as graphic novels and comics is also a great way to get the younger generations reading.”
Though the child and teen spaces are wonderful, Mitchell said his favorite part of the new library is the community of artists who make the most of the exceptional amenities. “To see that community get excited about the facility — and in the future to watch them grow as an artist — is an exhilarating experience,” he said.
Poyer had more difficulty choosing a favorite feature. “Each area/feature is special, but I am ‘wowed’ by the art gallery,” she said. “After you walk about the gallery, you can sit and further enjoy the art.”
The art gallery will highlight professional work, while the pieces made by students in the art classes will be exhibited in the classroom area. If a visitor is looking for more than art and books, there will be free concerts available on select dates. Event schedules are available at cobbcat.org.
The partnership between the library and Cobb County P.A.R.K.S. is a true representation of how things have changed for the better in the digital age, and there is still much to which we can look forward. “Libraries are reinventing themselves to be more than storehouses of books,” said Poyer. “Sewell Mill Library & Cultural Center provides an opportunity for all people to connect to the arts and literature. [It] opens the door to the world of literature through theatre, music and performing arts.”
‘Literacy Week’ Brings Authors to Local Schools
During the week of Nov. 6, 2017, students from 43 schools across metro Atlanta received visits from 11 award-winning children’s book authors during Literacy Week, a weeklong celebration of reading and writing hosted by Cobb EMC and Gas South. Throughout the week, authors challenged 24,000 students to expand their creativity through writing and illustration, and to build life-long reading habits. Guest authors included several Georgia writers, as well as NASA author, speaker and space historian Andrew Chaiken, and New York Times bestselling author Brian Lies.