When the current downtown Augusta library was built in 1960 with its newfangled "magic carpet doors," it cost all of $775,000.
Construction costs have risen just a tad in the 48 years since then.
More importantly, they've risen markedly just since the new library project has been in the works these last few years.
The result of that increase is that the $24 million project no longer is expected to be able to furnish and equip the new library, slated to open before June 2010.
Rather than go back to the taxpayers, the Library Foundation Board has embarked on a $3 million fundraising campaign to equip and furnish the new library.
We love that approach -- that the new library will be filled with the help of private donations. This truly is a public-private partnership.
But that necessarily means we need to make those donations, both large and small.
The public library is the ultimate gift a community makes to itself.
The gift of reading is enough, and a library is where we store our collection of great thoughts since the beginning of human history. But today, a library is so much more than books. It's a multimedia center of culture; it's where those without computers come to travel the globe on the Internet; it's where youths can retreat to do their homework, and even get some help.
It may masquerade as a community's brain, but it's really the heart. A library is a true reflection of what a city thinks of itself.
Augusta thinks enough of itself to nearly triple its current downtown library size, to 90,000 square feet. The new three-floor facility across 9th Street, with the front entrance on Telfair, will offer, among other things:
- wireless Internet and 65 public-access computers;
- a special children's library, puppet theater and a story-telling/arts and crafts center overlooking a garden;
- a 300-person meeting room and three smaller conference rooms for six to eight people.
In short, the new library will be a community gathering place as never before.
If what you're interested in is books, you're in good company: The current library sports more than 77,000 active cardholders, and sees more than 600,000 people come through the door each year. It's a good bet the expanded and updated new facility will attract even more.
Creating a center of learning in the center of downtown will also help untold children realize their potential for years to come.
As with any such project, there are "naming" opportunities for the largest donors -- who will see their name on rooms, or perhaps the library itself. But this campaign will require broad participation and every size of donation. This should be something we do together.
The Community Foundation for the CSRA is handling the donated funds for the library, so gifts can be made there in its name. You can also learn more about the new library, and look into ways you can help, at www.CheckItOutAugusta.com.
We know these are hard times. But hard times pass.
Libraries, and the learning they nurture, are forever.