Augusta library sees many changes in 50 years

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

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