Patrons didn’t notice the major change at the Columbia County Library last week.
The library became the hub of a new library region – the Greater Clarks Hill Regional Library System – on Monday.
“Everything should remain the same (for patrons),” Columbia County Libraries Manager Mary Lin Maner said. “So far, it’s going pretty good.”
Columbia County libraries were formerly served through the East Central Georgia Regional Library, which operates out of Augusta’s main library downtown. That region also served Richmond, Burke, Lincoln and Warren counties.
Libraries in Columbia, Lincoln and Warren counties joined to form the new region.
“There’s been a lot of work that has gone into this,” Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith said. “A solid year of work that we have been preparing for this July 1 start date.”
The decision to form the new region came down to economics, Smith said.
“It runs like a business,” Smith said. “We were putting out more than we were receiving in services.
In years past, Columbia County paid $130,000 into the state library system, but used very few of the services provided by the system.
“We were not getting any money for books or any true benefit from the membership fee we were paying, so the membership fee exceeded the return on investment,” Smith said.
Maner said funds to purchase books and other materials were provided in the library’s county budget. The county also provides IT services to all three library branches.
“We did most everything for ourselves anyway,” Maner said.
As hub of the new region, the Columbia County Library received $373,066 in state grant funds, which includes salaries for three state employees, two state positions that were cashed in by Warren and Lincoln counties, books, supplies and other needed items.
The county library now will provide IT and twice-a-week deliveries to Warren and Lincoln county libraries as well as book purchasing and cataloging. Funds from the state grant will be managed by the Columbia County Finance Department.
Maner said two staffers moved into the state-funded positions and need to be replaced and two part-time employees were hired to help with some new administrative tasks associated with running the library region.
Library patrons can still use the PINES system and all other databases available before the change. Library members will get a new membership card when their current card expires.
Otherswise, Maner said, “Everything should remain the same.”