While south Asheville might be infamous for its traffic, the Skyland/South Buncombe Library is absolutely a reason to make the drive. Renovated in 2002, this bustling branch is an epicenter of the ever-growing and diverse south Asheville population. “We’re smack-dab in the middle of four different Buncombe County schools and also the closest library to several of the largest retirement communities in the County,” says Branch Manager Ryan Kampert. They’re also flanked by some of the County’s largest apartment complexes. “All of these things together mean there’s never a dull moment at our library, and we help tons of people of all ages and backgrounds every single day,” exclaims Ryan.
Being at the confluence of so many academic institutions also gives the branch a predictable rush. “When schools are in session, we get a flurry of activity at 3 p.m., and our meeting room serves as a study hall after school,” says Youth Services Librarian Ann Schapira. Piggybacking on that sentiment, Librarian Grace Richards notes, “There’s a lot of growth in the area, so we’re always making new library cards. That plus being surrounded by schools, we tend to have a lot of patrons of all ages coming through our branch.” In fact, most years the Skyland/South Buncombe location issues more new library cards than any other branch.
With a uniquely diverse constituency, the branch is intentional about having unique art displays, decorations, seasonal ornamentation, and other details that create an inclusive environment. “Both patrons and staff enjoy the bright, open space and the laid-back atmosphere where families with young kids feel at home, and our patrons feel comfortable asking for help finding materials, sending faxes, or printing,” notes Librarian Suzette Kissoon. Outside the building, there are also interesting amenities such as a pollinator garden, which is a certified EcoExplore hotspot. “This beautiful space is maintained by our hard-working Friends of the Library group,” explains Suzette. “The garden features a variety of trees, shrubs, and plants. There’s a cute gazebo and comfortable seating where users can read or just sit and contemplate and enjoy nature.”
Back inside, the four-member team at Skyland/South Buncombe provides personalized and creative skills that help ensure their branch is a resource center for its diverse clientele. “I love the team I work with; I love the patrons and community we serve, and the many facets of serving the public. One of my favorite things about my job is using my art skills to work on displays and seasonal decorations to give our branch that extra bit of sparkle that makes us unique,” exclaims Grace, who says patrons should also be on the lookout for Mr. Snarkle – a friendly library monster known for good-natured mischief. “We move Mr. Snarkle around the children’s area every week for kids to find. There are even some unique prizes for finding him!”
Ryan says their team also always welcomes a challenge. “The part I love the most about working in libraries is problem solving. I love when a patron comes in with an issue – a book they can’t find, a computer document they can’t format, a research question they can’t find an answer to – and I am able to find that answer or connect them with the resources at my disposal to help us both get closer to an answer together. I love empowering our communities,” he says. Ann echoes that sentiment noting, “I love that the public library is one of the last truly egalitarian free spaces that anyone can come and feel welcome. I also personally really enjoy being on my feet all day and interacting with people.”
While the Skyland/South Buncombe branch might be adjacent to the intersection of two notoriously busy roads, it’s also a crossroads for creativity, empowerment, and so much more. So come visit the inviting space, interact with friendly and passionate staff, and see where it takes your path.
Skyland/South Buncombe Library overview
Hours: Tuesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Staff: Ryan Kampert, Ann Schapira, Grace Richards, and Suzette Kissoon
Resources, services, and offerings: Book club, story times (bilingual story time), computer access, free Wi-Fi, printing and copying, research help, public transit access, hotspot lending, ongoing book sale, voting location.
Unique services and hidden gems: Pollinator garden, outdoor reading space, large selection of DVDs, music, and audiobooks, Mr. Snarkle.
Additional thoughts from staff:
- “We have a devoted group of puzzlers that complete a jigsaw puzzle pretty much every week. Our Friends of the Skyland/South Buncombe Library maintain a beautiful garden that is an oasis behind the branch and is a haven for pollinators and readers alike.” – Ann
- “Our staff are some of the friendliest and most helpful in the whole library system, if I do say so myself. We get feedback from patrons all the time about how much they love interacting with us, and we have dozens of kids who will make special trips to the library each week just to see their favorite librarians, even if they don’t need more books. It makes me very happy how much of a positive impact we have on our patrons’ lives.” – Ryan