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Switchyards dragged online after announcing ‘private library’ in Decatur

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Switchyards dragged online after announcing ‘private library’ in Decatur

Switchyards All-City Club, 670 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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DECATUR, GA — When Atlanta-based startup Switchyards announced the upcoming opening of a “private library” in Decatur, both locals and public library supporters alike were quick to express confusion and disappointment.

There is a public library in Decatur, after all, and it’s free for everyone to use.

Described as “a gym for the mind,” Switchyards private workspace would allow members who pay $100 per month to access “a place completely separate and isolated from the endless distractions of home and the office,” the company website says, as well as bottomless coffee and the ability to use the rest of Switchyards’ other locations. 

“No phone calls. No meetings. No zoom,” Switchyards’ tweet thread continued. “We’re calling it The Library of Deep Work and Focus.”

While some were excited to see Switchyards expand their local co-working franchise, many noted that Downtown Decatur already has a free public library and that a privatized version would exist for a privileged few.

The responses got pointed.

“Imagine paying for a space that replaces the one you already paid for with your tax dollars, but this time, you don’t have to see any homeless people,” wrote Twitter user @Kamala4VP.

“This is petit bourgeois gentrifier shit and I will do literally everything in my power to prevent the success of your business,” tweeted Rachel Kahn, a community organizer in Atlanta.

The Switchyards website also notes that this space is specifically meant for Switchyards’ “top performers,” or “those who truly want to get meaningful work done and are craving a space for it,” and that therefore the space will be capped at 200 members. Additionally, the space reportedly would be open 24/7.

The aesthetically-minded “neighborhood work club” currently has locations in Cabbagetown, Downtown, and Westside Atlanta, and anticipates opening a location in Buckhead in addition to the location slated for Decatur.

Writer Audrey Taylor Ward, who currently holds a membership to utilize Switchyards’ Cabbagetown location, said the announcement was disappointing and made her reconsider whether she’ll continue her membership.

“I’d like to see some accountability toward the communities you allege to care about and seek to provide a ‘product’ for,” Audrey wrote in a tweet to Switchyards.

“Overall I think the idea of a space meant for quiet work and unlimited coffee in and of itself is fine — the marketing, that they’re trying to call it a private library, has a sort of elitist tone,” said Ward. “With gentrification so rampant all over the city [of Atlanta] and in Downtown Decatur, it’s kind of one more insult to the people in town who maybe can’t afford something like that but still deserve a nice place to work.”

Morgan, a former resident of Decatur, said she is also concerned about the cost and intentions of the space. “I understand the desire for quiet spaces, especially with the increase in working from home, but I don’t necessarily think that charging people $100 a month for that quiet room is the most beneficial for downtown,” she said. “I’ve used the Decatur Public Library often, and there are certainly places where if you wish to have a quiet space, it’s there.”

As of Friday, Switchyards has not publicly commented on the pushback but has posted several tweets promoting their brand, specifically an event featuring former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and rapper Killer Mike.

Decaturish reached out to Switchyards, who declined to comment on the record. Economic development officials with the city of Decatur said they don’t know where Switchyards plans to open its Decatur location. The DeKalb County Public Library declined to comment. 

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