The walls are painted. The carpet is installed. The lights are on.
Construction on Columbia County's new library and performing arts center is nearly complete, and officials have big plans for the facility.
"We're looking forward to the big day," said Barry Smith, Columbia County's Community and Leisure Services Division director. "The gala is right around the corner."
County officials will hold the Library and Performing Arts Center Preview Gala from 7 to 11 p.m. Jan. 21, at a cost of $100 per person. The black-tie event will preview the new facility and raise funds for a grand piano for the performing arts center and an endowment for facility maintenance and improvement, said Carly Kobisar, the county's community events specialist. The event also will feature a wine tasting and entertainment.
"I think we've got about 15 artists confirmed, everything from the symphony, individual pianists, ballet, all kinds of different performance arts who are going to be performing in the theater and also in the library," Kobisar said.
Smith said construction is 95 percent complete inside the building. Interior fixtures, furniture and equipment will be installed within the next month, and the landscaping of the grounds and memorial garden will be complete in the next few weeks, he said.
When the building and grounds are finished, the center will include a library, meeting and conference rooms, a 300-seat performing arts center, a memorial garden, a pond and a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.
Gibbs Library is slated to close in February. All the books will be moved and the staff hired and trained for the new facility before the official grand opening March 20, Smith said.
A $300,000 Department of Community Affairs grant has been used to purchase a Radio Frequency Identification system that will allow patrons to check out books themselves.
Smith called the library the "George Jetson library" because of the state-of-the-art system. It will automatically check books in when they are slipped into drop-off boxes and will issue an alert when someone tries to leave the library with a book that hasn't been checked out.
The system also will eliminate the need to close the library for two days during inventory. A portable scanner allows personnel to check aisles of books at a time, automatically updating inventory and alerting staff to misplaced books.
"It's a staff saver," Smith said. "It's a cost saver and it's an amenity of the library that will make it convenient for patrons of the library."
The Smart Card library card keeps track of late fines and can be loaded with money to use for copies or in the cafe.
The system also will be installed in the Euchee Creek and Harlem library locations.
Officials have two weeks of grand opening events slated for April 20-30, including a major book signing, a Stage III production of The Music Man, storytelling, marionette performances, book sales, genealogy workshops, and children's and adult authors.
Smith said the county also plans to ask first lady Laura Bush, a former school librarian, to speak at the event.
"We're right on schedule and hoping more and more people will discover the wonderful facility that is fixing to open up and join us for either the gala," Smith said.
For tickets to the gala, call 868-3484.
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