More than 30 years ago, citizens of Columbia County started talking about the county needing a library of its own.
At the time, there were about 30,000 residents here. A bookmobile, traveling weekly from Augusta, no longer was enough to serve them.
A public campaign to build a county library started, with citizens pledging a few pennies here and there. This newspaper was part of that campaign, publishing weekly tallies of the funds raised.
Then came the breakthrough: the Duffie and Gibbs families donated a piece of a land, and the county built the Gibbs Memorial Library about the same time that a donated home in Harlem was converted into the Harlem library.
Overnight the county had two libraries, and a few years later added the Euchee Creek Library.
Those facilities served the county well. But the fast-growing population soon outstripped the capacity of the tiny Gibbs library. Another campaign, this one led by Library Board Chairman Jefferson Hardin, started with meetings and tours of other communities' facilities.
In 1999, a small state grant seeded a campaign for a sales tax referendum. Soon the county broke ground for the Columbia County Library in Evans, one of our community's highest cultural achievements.
Today, another group is setting its sights on another cultural facility - an ambitious educational and arts center. At a pair of meetings last week, these citizens presented architectural renderings of the proposed $17 million facility they hope to see built in Columbia County.
We applaud their vision. The county has precious few places to display visual art, and performing artists are constrained either to an outdoor amphitheater or to small auditoriums or churches.
While the public embraced the construction of the county's library, however, citizens have been less enthusiastic about performance venues. In fact, construction of the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center at the library would not have happened without a substantial donation from its namesake.
County officials have already made it clear that public funds aren't available. And thus far private benefactors haven't stepped forward.
Building that Columbia County Library took tremendous energy and enthusiasm from volunteers.
The arts community will need similar energy and a united sense of purpose before their dream can become anything more than substantial than a set of drawings.
But they'll also need patience. After all: It took more than 20 years to get that new library.
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