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Hartselle Enquirer
Photo by Jean Cole   Sarah Laughmiller, left, children's librarian at Hartselle library, visits with library patron Amanda Appleton at the library. Appleton visits the library routinely and cannot wait for the new library to be built.  

Planned Hartselle library already piquing interest 

By Jean Cole 

For the Enquirer  


Hartselle library patron Amanda Appleton might find it appropriate that the city’s proposed new library will be built on land once home to a medical center. She already thinks of the library as a medical center of sorts. 

“I love it here,” she said of the existing William Bradford Huie Library at 152 Sparkman St. N.W. and the library staff. “They are not medical doctors, but they are good medicine when you need it.” 


Appleton became an avid reader in 2021 when she discovered that helped her deal with anxiety, she said. These days she’s drawn to murder mysteries and thrillers.  

“I used to hate reading as a kid; now it will be a part of life forever. It’s almost like therapy. It takes you away from your troubles.” 

Appleton often checks out books to read and says she cleans her house to the tune of the library’s audiobooks. 

With limited space and repairs too costly at its current location, the planned $2.5 million library will hopefully meet the city’s needs well into the future, said Michelle Blaylock, library manager. 

Built in the 1960s as a bank, the current library on Sparkman Street cannot be renovated to make it larger, officials said. 

“It needs repairs and updates that are not feasible considering we have outgrown the space,” Blaylock said. “We are extremely limited in most of our spaces for new materials, programming, patron seating, displays, storage, maintenance and work areas for employees.” 

The current library has 4,042 square feet of usable space, she said, excluding the maintenance room and storage areas. The new library, which will be at 413 Sparkman St. N.W., will have 7,500 square feet — almost double what it has now — and will be located less than a quarter of a mile from the current location. 

The new library and the adjoining 13,500-square-foot event center that is planned will be erected on 3.5 acres of donated land where the former Hartselle Medical Center once stood, Mayor Randy Garrison said. It was used as a medical center for 60 years until it closed in 2012 and was demolished in 2021. Huntsville Hospital Health System donated the land, valued at $110,000, to the city, officials said. 

The city council chose Leonard Designs to design the new library. The firm was previously involved in remodeling the municipal building, and the incoming city buildings, including the library, event center and fire station, will align aesthetically with it, officials said. The city will use the proceeds from the sale of municipal bonds issued in 2022 to pay for the three new buildings, Garrison said. 


One of the best new features in the new library will help both patrons and library staff, officials said. 

“We are converting to a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, which will allow patrons to checkout materials themselves,” Blaylock said. “They don’t have to wait for staff to be free. We get very busy in the summer, so they would not have to wait for staff and there would be no wait line.” 

Staff will use the RFID system to quickly check in returned books and to locate misshelved books and get them back in the right place, Blaylock said. The system works because each book is tagged with a readable microchip that contains pertinent information about the book. 

In a library, Blaylock said, a misshelved book “is as good as lost.”  

“We could walk down the aisles and scan the books to see if any were misshelved,” she said.  

The library’s existing collection includes 32,975 books, including audiobooks, 994 DVDs and 20 STEM/STEAM kits (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.) By the end of May, the library also plans to add traditional games and computer games, including PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. 

All of this material has to be periodically counted. 

“The RFID system would help with inventory,” Blaylock said. “It will go much quicker because we don’t have to scan each individual bar code.” 

Currently the bar codes that hold information about each book are located outside some books and inside others, which makes the inventory process more difficult. 

“To do inventory, we have to pull each book off the shelf, open it, look at it and put it back,” Blaylock said. “When we convert, we will tag each book and the information will be there. We can just scan the books by walking by each one.” 

The new library will offer larger dedicated spaces for children, teens and adults. 

Currently, the summer reading program for kids requires stuffing 100 people, including about 70 kids and 30 parents, into a large room in the library, said children’s librarian Sarah Laughmiller. The fit is tight and usually leaves people sitting on the floor or spilling over into the aisles. 


“I’m looking for more space to grow,” Laughmiller said. 

Hartselle resident Phyllis Bradford expects more library space will mean more space for new materials plus more space to expand library programs for kids and others. 


“These girls are top-notch,” she said of library staff. “I cannot imagine what they could do if they had more space.” 

The retired kindergarten teacher who taught at Barkley Bridge Elementary School said she loves coming to the library and she especially likes reading from its true crime and mystery selections. 

“I’m a former teacher, so I am interested in books of all kinds. I like nonfiction. I’m interested to see how the world works,” she said. “If a subject interests me, I pick it up.” 

With the additional space in the new library, library staff will be able to increase the number of materials available for checkout, Blaylock said. 

Included in the 7,500 square feet will be dedicated programming space for patrons of all ages. 

“This space will allow us to provide programs for adult and seniors such as crafting, job-skill classes and special speakers,” Blaylock said. 

For children, the library is planning programs such as LEGO Club and makerspace (a collaborative workspace that teaches critical thinking), STEM/STEAM programs and passive programming. 

“Due to current space limitations, we have found it difficult to provide teen programs,” Blaylock said. “However, with the new library it is one of our goals.” 

The children’s area will feature child-sized furniture, easy access to books and kits, and hands-on activities that can be changed periodically, Blaylock said. The teen area will feature comfortable seating, access to charging ports for devices, and space to meet and collaborate for school projects or computer programming.  

“It can get noisy, and we don’t have a separate area to do that,” Blaylock said. 

Overall, the new library is about planning for the future. 

“Our goal is not to just look at what we need today, but to have a library that will meet the future needs of our community and the surrounding area for years to come,” Blaylock said. 

For Appleton, that means more “good medicine.” 

“When we get a bigger library, there will be more options for patrons — more books, more DVDs, more books on tape, more everything.” 


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