Originally created 12/10/97

New library five years away



Although a new library is at least five years away, Columbia County may begin looking for a temporary fix to its crowded libraries.

David Warren, the Richland County Public Library director who is studying the Columbia County libraries, said the county has two options while officials decide what the future holds for libraries. Officials can store extra books in an environmentally-controlled area or begin looking for a vacant 20,000-square- foot building to move Gibbs Library into. The current building is about 9,500 square feet.

"I remember 1982, when the county opened Gibbs Library," said Jeff Hardin, treasurer of the Columbia County Library Board. "Fifteen years later, we find ourselves in a library...that is virtually obsolete. We need a 20,000- square-foot facility to transfer most of operations out of there on a temporary basis."

A temporary solution could be forged early next year.

"The interim needs of the library system need to be a focus of our budget works," said County Commission Chairman Pete Brodie.

Mr. Warren also said the county needs to rethink its relationship with the East Central Georgia Regional Library System.

"Perhaps it is time for CC to have it's own independent library system," he said.

At the center of that system should be a $12-million library on more than six acres, complete with 220 parking spaces, consultants say.

"A library system is only as strong as its central library," Mr. Warren said. "That is where you should place your emphasis."

And the most important aspect of a new library is the location, which should be along Belair Road, according to the consultants. It must be easy to get to and be able to serve as many people as possible.

"You don't want to invest $12 million in a building and make it hard to get to," Mr. Warren said. "The site should be central to the busiest part of your community. Do not compromise on the site."

The site and new building may be paid for with the next round of one-cent sales tax dollars.

"And that is two or three years away," Mr. Brodie said.