Next summer could mark a new chapter for the Columbia County Library.
A proposal presented to the county’s Community and Emergency Services committee Tuesday cleared the way for the library, which includes the main facility in Evans and the Euchee Creek and Harlem branches, to separate from the East Central Georgia Regional Library and become the hub for a new regional system.
The East Central Georgia Regional Library, which operates out of Augusta’s main library downtown, serves Richmond, Burke, Columbia, Lincoln and Warren counties.
The Evans-centered region would serve Columbia, Lincoln and perhaps Warren counties.
Lincoln County has already declared its intention to join the new region. Warren County has until Sept. 15 to decide.
Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith said he felt Warren County hadn’t been as impressed or excited as expected about joining the new regional library, but Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he had been in contact with the Warren County Commission and is optimistic.
“I think it’s going to happen,” he said.
Smith said the motivation for the split comes down to economics. He said that in years past Columbia County paid $130,000 into the state library system and in return received about $60,000 earmarked for acquisitions. Last year, the county did not receive any money.
As the hub for a new library region, the Columbia County Library would receive $220,000 ($280,000 if Warren County joins), $113,000 for supplies and acquisitions and four paid state positions (five if Warren County joins).
Lincoln and Warren counties would receive a portion of the state-supplied funds and one of the state-funded positions.
In return, the Columbia County Library would be charged with maintaining a courier system, IT and cataloging for the region.
“It is more work for us,” Smith said. “There’s no doubt about that. But I’ve talked to the people at the library, and it’s something they would like us to do.”
Losing the counties would cost the East Central Georgia Regional Library about $91,000 annually and four state-funded positions.
Before anything can happen, the Evans library will need to determine exactly what it has. The facility will close Nov. 7-10 for a complete inventory.
It’s an essential housekeeping task that hasn’t been accomplished since the branch moved from the old Gibbs Library in 2006.
Smith said in that time the collection has grown from between 50,000 and 60,000 items to about 130,000.
Mary Lin Maner said the inventory process involves scanning every book, putting misshelved materials in the correct spot and producing and replacing lost or removed bar codes.
“We’ve had a practice run in a small section of the adult collection,” she said. “It takes a long time.”
The Harlem and Euchee Creek branches will remain open during the inventory process.
There are no plans to close the Evans library’s lobby or the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center during the process.