As of March 27, Columbia County's newest library boasted thousands more books than the former Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library, a cafe and a performing arts theater.
By the end of the first week of operation, the library also signed on 500 new library patrons, bringing the number of library members countywide to about 35,000, said Christina Rice, Columbia County's library director.
"I think a lot of people are coming out because there's just so much else here, the amphitheater, the cafe, art displays in the lobby, the theater, the classrooms," Rice said. "All of those things are just kind of a destination, even for nonlibrary users. They get here and curiosity brings them into the library part."
George Carn, of Winfield, signed up his two children, Jonathan, 11, and Christa, 16, for library cards recently. He said all the new library amenities helped draw him to the facility.
"That is one thing," Carn said of the new features. "I'm interested in the theater and all where they are going to have plays and things."
He said the library is a great place for his kids to spend time while he works at nearby construction sites. He also plans to sign himself up for a new library card.
"I haven't (registered), but I'm planning on it," Carn said. He said that the registration trip was his first into the new library. "My son was saying his teacher said that they would get 10 points extra on a test or something if he went to the library. I said, 'You need to go to the library anyway.'"
The 51,000-square-foot facility replaces Gibbs Library, which Dr. Jeff Hardin, the chairman of the Columbia County library board of trustees, said was an inadequately small space.
"I cannot believe it. I've been at this thing for better or worse for 10 years," Hardin said of the new $13 million library on Ronald Reagan Drive. "It is just wonderful, and we are proud."
Rice said the new members have been signing up at a rapid rate since the opening, slowing only slightly since the 500 new patrons the first week. During that same week, Rice said, patrons checked out nearly 11,000 books, which is nearly double the average pace at the Gibbs Library.
"A lot of people have said they did not use Gibbs at all because it was hard to get into, there was no place to park or anything," Rice said. "People that never even considered using Gibbs are coming in here now."
Rice said she believes the atmosphere of the new library, one of a commercial book store with the huge windows, nicely displayed books and larger books on coffee tables for closer inspection also draws people to the library.
With school ending soon, Rice said she's expecting the library to be even busier.
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