Columbia County's newest library opened a year ago this week.
In its first year, library officials say, records were broken regarding circulation, library attendance, participation in library programs, reference questions and computer use.
"Everything went up. Nothing went down," said Christina Rice, Columbia County's library director.
Patrons at the county's three library branches - Evans, Euchee Creek and Harlem - checked out more than 500,000 books in 2006, which is 18 percent higher than 2005.
The Evans library contributed to the all-time high records with 369,902 checked items, which is a 27 percent increase compared to Gibbs Library in 2005.
Rice said she expects the 2007 numbers to be even higher because the 2006 figures include nearly two months of Gibbs Library information before it closed in February 2006, and a month of being closed for moving into the new location on North Belair Road.
Sarah Woyak, of Evans, has contributed to the record-high figures because she is an avid reader and library frequenter. She is one of the estimated 233,000 people who used Gibbs and the new library in 2006. That's a 58 percent increase compared to 147,000 people who did so in 2005.
"I use it all the time," said Woyak, who usually heads straight for the latest best-sellers. "I usually go at least a couple of times a month and get a book or two or three."
The new $13 million library and performing arts center opened March 27, 2006, and houses more than 150,000 adult and children's books.
Rice said the number of questions fielded by reference librarians nearly doubled in 2006 to 69,660 as opposed to 37,370 in 2005. It was the new library's technology that boasted the largest increase, however.
The use of public computers rose 164 percent from 17,546 people using them in 2005 to 45,913 in 2006.
"When you consider we had about five computers at Gibbs and now we've got 42 for the public, that's bound to lead to an increase," Rice said.
The library's computer management system allows for much easier logging on and printing, she said.
Louis Sherman, of Martinez, said the computers are big attractions for his two teenage daughters, who often use them for school work.
"They use the computers and they like the whole little park behind it," Sherman said. He checks out DVDs weekly.
Sherman said he had used Gibbs Library a couple of times, but he is much more impressed by the Columbia County Library.
"It is a really good thing for the county and an appropriate size for the county instead of the Gibbs Library," he said.
Rice said her staff continues to get good comments about the library, but she is impressed that patronage at the Euchee Creek and Harlem libraries also maintained in 2006.
"So people did not leave those branches. They enjoy coming here. It is all new business," she said.
Eleven thousand people signed up for library cards in 2006, she said, a 44 percent increase over 2005 figures.
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