Not since a friend showed off her brand-new baby at the hospital have I seen someone as proud as Lige Hickman at the opening of Columbia County's new library Monday.
Even though I'd already been through the facility before, Hickman - who, with his indefatigable wife, Norma, runs Friends of Columbia County Libraries - insisted on giving me a tour behind the scenes.
Friends, the volunteer organization that does so much for the library, not only has its own book-sale area in the new library; it also has its own storage room for donated books.
Before the new library was built, those donations were regularly dropped off at the back door of the Gibbs Memorial Library. During the transition to the new library, the staff discouraged donations.
Now that the new library is open, donations are again welcome; just drop them off at the back door, Hickman says.
Hickman also showed me the first book donation at the new library. It was a hefty Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, donated by Marion Marshall.
Marshall was chairman of the county's library board when the Gibbs Library was built 25 years ago - so it's very special that she is the first donor at the new library.
In addition to the donations of books, videos and other materials - some of which are added to the library's collection, and others that are sold to raise money for other library needs - the library continues to seek donations of items for its heritage room.
Set up for genealogical and historical research, the room already is a repository of items donated after library officials put out word that the room was being created.
Now that it's open for business, more such items are being sought. They're specifically seeking information and artifacts that help tell the story of Columbia County history.
One thing the library doesn't have to actively seek: Patrons. They've been showing up in droves.
Now, this doesn't mean they don't want people to visit. They just don't have to look for any right now. Think Augusta National: Do those folks have to ask visitors to come see the golf course?
Columbia County's new library isn't quite to the stage where you have to get on a waiting list for a library card. But ever since the moment that the children from Evans Elementary helped cut the ribbon to open it Monday, the place has been packed.
Columbia County built it, and now the visitors are coming.
It's a good thing there's overflow parking at the courthouse, or the day-care center next door might even start selling parking slots.
Speaking of parking, here is a purely commercial (sort of) announcement.
If you're one of the folks privileged enough to have Masters practice round or tournament badges, but don't have a parking pass for inside the gates, you'll probably have to pay to park outside the National.
Let me kindly suggest parking at National Hills Baptist Church. I'll be up at the crack of dawn every day this week to deliver my 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, to her volunteer duties helping guide patrons to a parking spot. The money they raise will help send the church's youth group on their summer retreat.
They give away coffee in the mornings, too.
Long-time educator and current Riverside Middle School teacher John Eckenroth is recuperating at Doctors Hospital after a stroke this past week.
Things looked pretty bleak at first, but Eckenroth has made a remarkable recovery. He'll still be in intensive care for about another week so doctors can keep a close eye on him.
Eckenroth is a true hero of mine, and of many of the kids whose lives he's touched. Please remember him in your prayers.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call (706) 863-6165, extension 106.)
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