The final page of Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library's history was turned Saturday, marking an end to the public facility's more than 23-year run in Evans.
On Saturday, librarians and staff said things were busy at Gibbs, as customers walked in to wish employees well, check out books and surf the Internet for the final time at the 326 North Belair Road facility.
With an end, though, also comes a beginning.
A new Evans library and performing arts center located on North Belair Road adjacent to the Evans Judicial Center is scheduled to open March 27.
"This is definitely a beginning," said Christina Rice, Columbia County's library director. "In keeping with the county's growth, I think the new building is going to be a tremendous resource."
During the five-week gap between Gibbs' closing and the opening of the new library, staff will be busy installing Radio Frequency Identification tags on all books, resource materials, audiotapes and DVDs, Rice said.
The RFID system will recognize and check out a customer's entire collection of books at once, and will permit library customers to self-check out books if they choose, Rice said. The system also will streamline library operations such as performing inventories and provide enhanced security features, she said.
"We're just trying to get everything ready" to move into the new library, Rice said.
"All the books have to be tagged, and everything squared away before the movers get here. There's a huge amount of work to be done."
In addition to tagging the library's current inventory of 80,000 titles, moving the books and integrating 20,000 new books purchased for the library, the staff will have to be trained to operate the new electronic checkout system. The library will be adding four full-time staff members and several part-timers, Rice said earlier this month.
Though a book drop will remain open at Gibbs Library for patrons to use, Rice implored the public to return their books to the new facility to aid in the move.
According to library records, as many as 20,000 books could be in circulation during the move, she said.
Greg Brown, of Grovetown, said he was doing his part to help move books over by checking out books at Gibbs and returning them to the new library.
"I figured I would check out a few and it certainly wouldn't hurt anything," he said.
Gibbs Library opened in November 1982 and was named after the former school board member as part of an agreement between Gibbs' stepson, who donated the land to the county.
"Gibbs was actually state-of-the-art for where Columbia County was (when it opened) in 1982," Rice said. "But as much as we've outgrown Gibbs Library" in terms of space and amenitie, "the county has outgrown it also."
Brown summed up the sentiments of a lot of customers when asked how he felt about Gibbs Library closing.
"This is a nice little library, but I'm really excited by the new library," he said.
Rice, who started her job as director at Gibbs in 1983, said it will be difficult to leave a building she has spent much of her professional life in, but she is looking forward to the new facility.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people who will feel nostalgic about (Gibbs Library), but they're going to be so pleased with the new place," she said. "They'll really like it."
Still, with so much work remaining until the new facility opens, Kathy Hebert, Gibbs' branch manager and an employee at the facility for 19 years, said the staff didn't plan a celebration.
"Maybe we'll pop open a bag of M&M's and have some chocolate at 4 p.m.," Hebert said. "We probably will have a (celebration) once we get the books out of here and once the reality (of the closing) sets in. That's when we'll say 'wait a minute!' That's when an era comes to an end."
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