The books are waiting. Daylight is streaming in through the tall windows. The staff is eagerly, and anxiously, awaiting patrons.
The day is finally here. Columbia County's new library is opening.
With a 10 a.m. ceremony Monday, Columbia County will put an exclamation point on its finest public project yet: The new, $13 million, 51,000 square foot main library opens in Evans.
We've come a long way. Back in 1981, Columbia County was collecting nickels and dimes to fund what would become the Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library. The facility was built on donated land with state funding and an appropriation from county commissioners.
But it also was built with some $8,000 in citizen donations, tracked each week in this newspaper, and guided by a committee led by the late Roy Goodwin.
How exciting it was, then, for this newspaper nearly 20 years later to help in the effort to convince taxpayers to approve spending sales tax funds for a new library, and then six years later to help sponsor a pre-opening tour by educators at Gibbs' vastly upgraded replacement.
Libraries, like newspapers, wouldn't exist without readers. So there's an inevitable kinship between them. But The News-Times' boosterism for the new library goes far beyond literacy.
This is all about civic pride. Columbia County is already a great place to live, a wonderful community in which to raise children. A library of the caliber of the county's new facility, along with the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center, amphitheater and memorial gardens, instantly raises our quality of life.
"I'm looking forward to the library becoming a community destination that has something for everyone - the park, books, cafe, arts and performances," says Christina Rice, the county's incomparable library director.
Rice, along with hard-working Library Board Chairman Jeff Hardin, and members of the county's phenomenal Friends of the Library, deserve endless praise for their roles in getting the doors open.
"It's been a long struggle," Hardin says. He recalls the ground-breaking ceremony in 2003: "I remember, out on that dusty plain, and the bulldozers, when we had the gold-shovel bit, and it's hard to believe we're seeing such a beautiful building."
Come Monday, the citizens of Columbia County can finally see what their tax dollars have been working on for these past three years. This is the kind of celebration truly worth reading about.
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