published Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Plans under way to build new Eastgate Library in Chattanooga

For half an hour Thursday, Chattanooga Library Director Corinne Hill stopped packing her bags in a Netherlands hotel to talk about Eastgate Library. She was too excited to stop.

After several years of planning and talking about updating the city library branch, the Chattanooga Library is at work to make it happen.

And Hill isn't talking updates to the current facility. She and city library officials are talking totally new, built to their specifications and most importantly, built to be a reflection of Chattanooga and the Brainerd community.

A unique community with unique needs -- even at the library level. Steve Little, library assistant at the Eastgate branch, knows. He has worked at each city library branch and at the Eastgate branch for 15 years now.

That branch serves a lower-income community, he said. Many library users go there to use the computers for job applications, only many aren't tech-savvy.

While he explained the library's uses Saturday afternoon, a customer approached the desk asking for help with a copy machine.

"See what I mean about [library users] needing help?" Little said.

In fact, computers are Eastgate Library's No. 1 need, according to Little.

Saturday afternoon, nearly 20 cars sat in the library's parking lot. Every available desktop computer was in use. Some people sat at laptops, connected to the library's wireless Internet.

"Actually, this is slow for a Saturday," Little said. "Saturdays can be a nightmare."

He also said a lot of people still think of libraries as a quiet place with books, which is only part of a contemporary library's services.

The Eastgate library is place where residents can fax things, copy things, type things and check out things -- like books "and lots of these," Little said, placing a hand on a stack of DVDs a woman returned. Hundreds of DVDs per week, he said, go in and out of the library's doors.

It's all part of Hill's big plan for the Eastgate branch. She imagines a place where the community hangs out. A place with books, of course, but with more computers, more tech gear, and absolutely high-speed Internet.

And imagine, she said Thursday evening, a library where people can go nearly 24 hours per day to do work and browse the Web. Imagine the facility isn't staffed that entire time. Imagine the savings, too.

"We don't have to be there all the time," Hill said. "How can we deliver that?"

A basic plat rendering is proposed. Fliers are finished and ready for distribution.

"We're building a NEW VISION for your public library at EASTGATE," one states.

A survey goes live online tomorrow, and Eastgate residents are asked to provide input for the library's planners to consult during development. Hill wants the library's users to be as excited as she is, about everything from its design to its amenities.

Visit www.chattlibrary.org/eastgate-survey to weigh in. It's not every day library users are asked to speak up.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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