UNION COUNTY — The Union County Carnegie Library is requesting one-time funding of $50,000 to be used toward its building project.
Director Ben Loftis recently presented the library’s request to Union County Council, beginning his presentation with a review of the library’s history and the services it provides the community.
“Completed in 1905, the Union County Carnegie Library is the oldest Carnegie Library in South Carolina and the only public library in Union County,” Loftis said. “The library serves the community from its historic building located in the South Street/South Church Street Historic District only two blocks from Main Street in the City of Union. A 1985 renovation increased the size of the library from 2,500 square feet to 8,000 square feet and added an unfinished basement to accommodate further expansion.
“In fiscal year 2013, the library welcomed over 55,000 visitors, more than 17,000 of whom visited to use the library’s public access computers to check emails, search and apply for jobs, or to do homework or schoolwork,” he said. “Patrons checked out 36,000 items from the library’s on-site holdings of over 40,000 items or through their access to the nearly 3,000,000 items available through UCCL’s membership in the SCLENDS consortium of libraries (approximately 20 county libraries and the State Library who share circulation software and library catalog, making available the collections of all participating libraries to patrons).”
Loftis then outlined the building project and the impact it will have on the library.
“The building project the library seeks to undergo will ‘Renovate, Restore, and Complete’ the Carnegie Library,” Loftis said. “The renovation of the library will include the addition of updated security technology, fire sprinklers, and improved handicapped accessibility.
“The restoration of the building will focus on the historic, original area of the library and will include cleaning of the tin ceiling and stained glass under the dome, the reopening of the original front doors (currently blocked by computers), and improved access to the dome for cleaning and maintenance purposes,” he said. “The completion of the library will focus on the currently unfinished basement, which will make that space usable by housing a meeting room, conference room, staff and storage areas, and reconfiguring the current level to maximize space in a facility that is quickly seeing limited additional space for new materials. Overall, this project will allow the library to maximize its space (and add more than 4,000 usable square feet of new space), become safer and more comfortable, and restore the original beauty of the historic Beau-Arts structure.”
Loftis then discussed the benefits the county will realize from the completion of the project.
“This project has several benefits to the county,” Loftis said. “First, the Carnegie Library is a historic structure and its dome helps make the building a distinctive landmark within the City of Union. As part of the Union County Historic Trail, the building is already being marketed as a historic attraction and has received visitors simply to see the building. This restoration project will make the interior even more attractive, recreating the traditional beauty of the original Carnegie portion of the library.
“Second, the library is very limited on space in which to add new materials or host programming,” he said. “The renovation of the building will add more usable space as well as maximizing the current space available, allowing the library to grow and increase its offerings to the community.”
Loftis said a third benefit will be the addition of a meeting room and a conference room.
“Currently, there is little public meeting space in Union County, but the library’s expansion will provide rooms for both large meetings (with seating for 60+ participants) or for smaller discussions,” Loftis said. “Finally, the expanded library will have space for additional computers. With nearly 20,000 computer uses annually, there are many times when the library does not have enough computers for all patrons. As more and more classes and job applications are completed online, more patrons will need to use the computers.”
Loftis said the project will cost approximately $2 million, but added that $1.25 million of that has been appropriated by S.C. General Assembly. He said the Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Union County Carnegie Library are working to secure additional funding.
The Friends of the Library recently raised $600 for the building project with a “Bridge & Brunch” fundraiser at Grace United Methodist Church. The event drew 44 participants.
The Bridge & Brunch event was the kickoff for the FOL’s fund raising efforts on behalf of the library’s building project.