Augusta library sees many changes in 50 years

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The downtown Augusta library will mark 50 years of operation this year.

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Becky Girton copies down a recipe for lemon butter cookies Wednesday afternoon at the Augusta Library.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Becky Girton copies down a recipe for lemon butter cookies Wednesday afternoon at the Augusta Library.

The library at Ninth and Greene streets opened in December 1960. It will move later this year to a new building near Telfair Street and James Brown Boulevard.

In the past 50 years, a lot has changed, said Gary Swint, the director of the East Central Georgia Regional Library system, which also serves Burke, Columbia, Lincoln and Warren counties.

"The biggest change, of course, has been computers," Mr. Swint said. He said computers started to really become a part of the library system in the 1980s.

Though computer usage accounts for nearly 30 percent of the library's traffic, most people still come for books and print reference materials.

The downtown library lends out more than 600,000 book titles every year. Estimating that each book is worth about $25, Mr. Swint said the library gives the community about $15 million worth of book services.

"There's a lot of talk about electronic books and the Kindle machine, but I don't ever think they will replace paper books," he said.

Mr. Swint said the library has electronic books available for people using Kindles and other e-book readers. The files are available through the library Web site, www.ecgrl.org.

What do the next 50 years hold? Mr. Swint hopes that the library staff can encourage more people to read for pleasure. The easiest way to do this, he believes, is to encourage children to read for fun.

"We try to make children actually want to read, not just because they have to," he said.

For more information about the library system, to learn about upcoming events or to find other branches, visit www.ecgrl.org.

Reach Gracie Shepherd at (706) 724-0851 or t.gracie.shepherd@augustachronicle.com.

TOP BOOKS CHECKED OUT IN 2009

- Symbol, by Dan Brown

- I, Alex Cross, by James Patterson

- Breathless, by Dean Koontz

- Push, by Sapphire

- Under the Dome, by Stephen King

Source: Sheryl James, employee at the Headquarters Library of the East Central Georgia Regional Library system

Comments (14) Add comment
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deekster
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deekster 01/03/10 - 07:44 am
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And did they tear down

And did they tear down another of Augusta "beautiful old buildings" to build this "disposable, soon to have a leaking roof, edifice. The old court house with its brick facade and lions was beautiful. And what of the old historic train station. And soon to be lost building on Reynolds St. And oh, don't forget the temporary housing for the homeless that the library provides. Sitel could use a few of the PC experts, if only they would not flood the toilets.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/03/10 - 07:48 am
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Anyone flushed any sneakers

Anyone flushed any sneakers down the toliet recently? I'd do away with brick and mortar libraries and have everything online. If a poor family doesn't have a computer give them one of those little things they give to third world kids. They would be much better off with a computer at home and an online county library than they would be with this multimillion dollar structure. We would all be better off with the ability to "thumb" thru millions of books without having to "go" to the library. There could be a national standard library developed by a private company that all local libraries could work off and add as they saw fit.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/03/10 - 07:50 am
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Dang, Deekster, you beat me

Dang, Deekster, you beat me to the toliet thing. Haha

whyaskwhy
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whyaskwhy 01/03/10 - 08:19 am
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Fears, fears, fears. Pain and

Fears, fears, fears. Pain and negative eyes. You people should turn off your computers and get out into the world. Despite your way of thinking, AUGUSTA IS GROWING. Deal with your fears and pains so that you too can grow and be a part of a progressive world. (And yes, people will talk to you if you get off your butt and away from that computer. You may even learn how to speak in the past, present or future when making one simple sentence.)

Riverman1
94429
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Riverman1 01/03/10 - 08:25 am
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Whyaskwhy, I'm sorry we take

Whyaskwhy, I'm sorry we take the time to learn more than you do about various situations. Your comment is akin to those who are upset with others who read. Peculiar in a discussion about libraries. Now why don't you try to discuss the pros and cons of the library becoming an online enterprise instead of the outdated brick and mortar concept?

ustabe
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ustabe 01/03/10 - 09:31 am
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Dear God, please teach us

Dear God, please teach us compassion. My children learned to love books in public libraries. If there are no other warm, dry places for the homeless, then maybe we should be looking at that problem rather than trying to figuring out how to "give them one of those little things they give to third world kids". Of course, if we really don't care about those "poor families", we can let Augusta become its own little third world country, can't we?

happychimer
19624
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happychimer 01/03/10 - 10:05 am
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that is not true about the

that is not true about the toilets at the library. Go to the main library and the restroom doors are locked. You have to have a library card to get the key. Mine is on my keyring, so they keep my keys till I return their key.

DAMY46
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DAMY46 01/03/10 - 10:16 am
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What was wrong with the old

What was wrong with the old library building that could not be repaired?..But no, they had to waste $24 million of taxpayer money to build a new one..

happychimer
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happychimer 01/03/10 - 10:23 am
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I hope they will expand their

I hope they will expand their genealogy dept.

bigalsc
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bigalsc 01/03/10 - 11:47 am
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These Library naysayers

These Library naysayers probably haven't set a foot in a library, or even read a book of value, in 60 years. Incredible!

Riverman1
94429
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Riverman1 01/03/10 - 12:21 pm
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There are two different

There are two different issues here. Taking care of the poor and homeless and the best type of library. I'm all for providing the homeless and poor a clean, safe, warm place where they can get some food. Possibly the old library would have worked well for that. In addition, I believe we can provide kids with an afterschool place to study such as the Kroc Center will do. They will have computers there. But the issue is the best way to provide instant access to books and information for everyone in the CSRA and the answer to that is to have an online library. It will actually cost less and be a better way to make information available to the public. As far as the dig about some of us not reading, some of us have even WRITTEN published books, I'd be willing to wager.

ustabe
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ustabe 01/03/10 - 03:33 pm
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Good points, Riverman. Maybe

Good points, Riverman. Maybe I'm just too old-fashioned, but real books on shelves, a place to sit and read them, having the actual book in my hands, all that stuff just appeals to me. You know, I can still remember how the old library on Eve Street used to smell.

Riverman1
94429
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Riverman1 01/03/10 - 06:52 pm
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Ustabe, I understand. I loved

Ustabe, I understand. I loved libraries growing up, even book mobiles that came around twice a week, and in later life spent lots of time in different kinds of libraries, but times have changed. I remember arguing on here that libraries should remain traditional and not be another service to rent DVD's, etc. But the technology is now allowing instant online access to about every book written. That is simply too good to pass up. Plus, consider those who can't or don't want to visit the traditional library downtown. I'll bet there are tens of thousands of those. Everyone with internet access could take advantage of an online library. Finally, consider the cost of the real estate, building and library staff. This would save at least $10 MILLION and provide service to many more.

corgimom
38787
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corgimom 01/03/10 - 08:08 pm
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Damy, I still remember my

Damy, I still remember my dismay when I first walked into the downtown library. That was in 1979, and it was old, worn, tired, had grossly inadequate parking, and wasn't anywhere close to what libraries were in other cities, even then. For years I thought it was a converted supermarket. They have done the best they could, but a new building was desperately needed. Libraries get a lot of hard use. The building also has mold and asbestos and lead paint and a woefully inadequate heating and air conditioning system. The bathrooms, even before the homeless moved in, were abominable.

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