The Columbia County Library is closed today, but not for lack of demand, librarians say.
Demand for the new facility hasn't slowed, branch librarian Jessica Thompson said, and today's closure is solely for staff training to better serve the needs of patrons. Library staff are receiving training on new software that is more user-friendly for patrons and employees.
Under the upgraded PINES system, patrons have greater access to the library's book catalog to check availability, renew books online, update account information and check the status of fines from home, Thompson said.
Sunday marks five months since the new library opened, and though the extended summer hours on weekday mornings have ended now that school is in session, Thompson said demand for books, DVDs, library cards and programs is still high.
Extended hours on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons are now permanent, she said, adding that summer hours will return next year.
"When a library first opens it becomes very popular and people want to check it out," said Thompson, who transferred to Columbia County from libraries in Indianapolis, Ind. when the new facility opened.
The Evans library has drawn a lot of visitors from throughout the Augusta area, she said.
"They could stay at their own library and request our books if they wanted to, but a lot of people want to come over here because they like the building better," she said, adding that students from Augusta-area colleges are coming to the new facility to study instead of using their college's student centers or libraries.
Demand for children and adult programs has been so high, many require registration on a waiting list, Thompson said.
Kathy Herbert, a circulation manager for the library who worked for 19 years at the former Gibbs Library, said she did not anticipate the heavy volume the new building has drawn.
"I haven't found the normal yet," she said of trying to anticipate the busiest hours of operation. Library card registrations are still nearly four times the amount that Gibbs Library received per month.
From April through July, the library received 6,251 registrations compared to 1,538 during the same period last year.
Herbert said it has surprised her that all 42 public computers are virtually in constant use, considering that number is seven times greater than the computers at Gibbs.
"For a facility that was trying to serve a community of 100,000 people it (Gibbs) was definitely way behind in keeping up with the population of Columbia County," she said. "This was something that a lot of people have been waiting a long time for."
Tammy Harris, of Evans, said she and her 5-year-old daughter Brooke were occasional patrons of Gibbs, but now they come to the new library about once a week.
"The facility is much nicer and my little girl loves to come here and play," she said. While Brooke plays with the puppet show in the Children's Library, Harris picks up books for bedtime stories.
"I read to her. To get her into bed at night that's what I coax her with," she said.
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