Forsyth County’s Central Library – Then & Now

The Forsyth County Central Library is new –  inside and out.  The following photos show how the library looked then (mostly when it opened in 1953), and how it looks now (when it is new in September 2017).

This is the front facade, taken from West Fifth Street.  The 1953 building was demolished, leaving a 1980 building addition that was stripped and folded into the current construction.


The 1953 building featured a hallway that led to an auditorium on the ground floor.  The hallway also functioned as an art gallery and was the location of changing art exhibits.  The new library has floating art panels that hold changing art exhibits.  These white panels stand on the second floor near the elevators, outside of the North Carolina Collection.  A variety of art is located all over the library – outside and inside of departments and in stairwells.


The original auditorium was located on the ground floor, with movable chairs.  This space was later occupied by other library departments.  A later auditorium was built in the 1980 addition on the first floor.


The circulation desk stood on the first floor, near the West Fifth Street entrance.  As book circulation became a little bit automated, a large machine sat on this desk for checking out books, attended by a staff member. The Children’s Room was located behind the wall of glass.  The new circulation/information desk is located on the first floor.


As a library’s book collection grows, so does the library’s card catalog.  Before the catalog was automated, the card catalog filled an entire wall in the 1953 building.  Paper card catalogs require constant maintenance by the library staff.  Today’s catalog is automated and there are several catalog stations scattered throughout the library.  The catalog stations do more than just help locate materials.  Patrons can place holds on books and check-out books.


The library had a fine record collection, shown by former library director, Paul Ballance.   While vinyl is making a comeback for some people, the library is adding many audio books to the collection.  There is a special section devoted to audio books and another section for CDs/DVDs.


Tables designed to hold turntables for vinyl records were unique to the 1953 building.  They were especially popular in the children’s department.  Today, tables equipped with electrical power for charging and using devices such as telephones and computers are available in the reading areas.


The Children’s Department in the 1953 building was so large and bright, particularly compared to the cramped and dark quarters of the Carnegie Library.  The new library has a spacious and colorful Children’s Room, filled with books for all ages.  Just as in the 1953 building, child-sized furniture makes it comfortable for small folk to sit and look at books.



The reading area of the 1953 building was filled with tables and bookcases.  There is plenty of light in the new library for desks that line the windows.  Book cases are low in the center of the building to maximize light and views.  Tables also have electrical outlets, plus lights for evenings and cloudy days.



Here are a few more features, but they are unique to the new library, so no “then” photos.

The sculpture in front of the library is a book with the word “library” in many different languages.

There is a cafe on the first floor serving drinks and snacks.  The cafe is located near the main entrance, outside of the auditorium.

When you come in the front door, this tall structure is right in front of you.  The bottom screen is currently showing historical photos of  central and other Forsyth County libraries.  The top screens are showing a water falling, complete with sound effects.

Come see the new library for yourself.  Check out other historical images of central library and the branches at

Historical photos are from the Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection.

Current images by Molly Grogan Rawls.

Stay tuned for the next delicious post on September 22nd and the next historical post on October 1st.




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