HISTORY OF THE GWINNETT COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM
The earliest record of library service in the region is that of the Norcross Public Library which was established in the school by the Norcross Woman's Club in 1907. The library was moved in 1922 to a new facility built with funds provided by a benefactor, Edward Buchanan.
In 1935, the Lawrenceville Parent-Teacher Association supplied the impetus for the establishment of the Lawrenceville Public Library in City Hall. The Lawrenceville Public Library on November 3, 1936, became the Gwinnett County Library thus receiving additional support. Bookmobile service was begun in 1940. In 1944, the Georgia State Board of Education provided funds for the purchase of books to libraries whose local support qualified them for the funds.
Records indicate that there was some library service in Forsyth County in the 1920's. The Forsyth County Library remained in operation until 1955 when it closed due to limited financing.
The State of Georgia provided financial aid to county libraries whose local support met the qualifications for state aid. Due to the fact that many counties were small in area and population, thus having limited resources for support, the Georgia State Board of Education encouraged county libraries to merge and form regional library systems. Such a merger was formed on June 1, 1956 by the Gwinnett and Forsyth Libraries creating the Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library. In 1957, the Norcross Library joined this regional system.
Dawson County did not have any library service until June 1958 when it joined the Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library. Because Lake Lanier was a common feature of the three counties, the name was changed to the Lake Lanier Regional Library.
The City of Buford agreed to pay the Lake Lanier Regional Library for library services and a branch was opened in 1967. Branches were also opened in Lilburn and Duluth in 1968 when both of these cities contracted for library services with Lake Lanier Regional. During the 1970's libraries were also established in Snellville and in the community of Mountain Park. This brought the total number of branches to nine.
The majority of the libraries in the region had been constantly plagued with inadequate space and inadequate funds. Most of the branches were housed in whatever facilities could be found, such as a room in city hall, an old store, the basement of an office building. The only branches that had buildings constructed for library use were Forsyth where a new building was built in 1967 and Norcross who occupied a remodeled building in 1971. The Dawson branch was originally built for a library and was remodeled after fire destroyed the interior of the building in 1982.
As the population of the region began to grow and grow very rapidly, especially in Gwinnett County, the inadequate space, materials, services, and funds became more and more critical. In 1986, a bond referendum was passed to provide funding for the building of new facilities for each of the seven existing branches in Gwinnett County and to add a new branch at Peachtree Corners.
In December 1987, the first new building was opened at Mountain Park. In rapid succession until August 1990, new buildings were opened at Snellville, Lilburn, Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Buford, Norcross, and Lawrenceville. The size of the total collection doubled and each building was approximately 10,000 square feet with additional space for a business center at Peachtree Corners, and a special needs center and regional headquarters at Lawrenceville.
The need for expanded facilities in Forsyth County became evident and a bond referendum was passed in 1988. This referendum of $2,100,000 million was for materials and equipment. The State of Georgia provided a $2 million construction grant which enabled Forsyth County to construct a new building, approximately 26,000 square feet, in 1992 with greatly expanded technology and services.
The Lake Lanier Regional Library continued to grow and change. By Fiscal Year 1994, the number of items checked out exceeded 4 million giving the system the largest circulation in the state of Georgia. The funding was in excess of $8 million.
With the move of the Dawson County branch to the Chestatee Regional system on July 1, 1994, the Lake Lanier Regional Library changed its name to Gwinnett-Forsyth Regional Library.
An additional branch, Five Forks, opened in 1995.
On July 1, 1996, the partnership between Gwinnett and Forsyth counties was dissolved, and two independent public library systems were formed. The Gwinnett system changed its name to the Gwinnett County Public Library. It was also in 1996 that the library system began offering Internet access, including access to Georgia's virtual library, GALILEO, at all branches. Soon to become known as "Virtualville", www.gwinnettpl.org was established as the official website and online branch of the library system.
The tenth branch, Collins Hill, opened in 1999. In 1999 the library system was named a finalist for the Library of the Year award. In 2000, GCPL went on to win this national honor.
In summer 2002 the system opened the Centerville branch. This branch shares facilities with the Gwinnett County community center. Our twelfth branch opened in Suwanee on October 31, 2004, and on April 15, 2006 we held the dedication for our thirteenth branch, located in Dacula.
In August 2005, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Grayson branch. The branch opened to the public on Saturday, October 28, 2006. Plans for next branch facility, which will be located in the Hamilton Mill area in north Gwinnett County, are now underway.