Aiken County Public Library welcomes patrons back

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Aiken Standard, 2021

By Dede Biles

Patrons who hadn’t been allowed inside since May 10 got their first look Friday at the Aiken County Public Library’s interior makeover.

The second floor, where most of the work has been completed, was open, but the first floor remained closed to visitors.

“I’m a library lover; I couldn’t wait,” said Deborah Greenfield, who was among the first to arrive. “This is wonderful, the spaciousness and all the light. I’m delighted.”

The second floor has a large open space where the new Barbara and Tommy Wessinger Reading Area is based, and there also is a new conference room that can accommodate 14 people.

The big, centrally located reference desk is gone. Replacing that feature is a much smaller information desk, which is easily accessible even though it is tucked in a corner.

“We’ve been waiting (to return),” said Edie Cassingham, who was looking at periodicals with her husband, Rob. “We’re retired, so we like to come to the library every day. He has certain magazines he likes to look at. In fact, while this library was closed, we went to the one in North Augusta. It’s great to be able to read things that you don’t have to buy.”

Cassingham described the refurbished second floor as “very spacious” and then added, “They’ve really opened it up.”

Another Friday visitor was Caroline Reppert, who brought her 3-year-old son, Declan.

They spent time in the children’s book section and checked out a computer for kids.

“We’re excited that the library is open again,” she said. “It’s very timely because this is the hottest part of the summer and this is a good indoor activity. When we pulled up in the parking lot, he exclaimed, ‘Library!’”

The renovated second floor “definitely seems much brighter,” Reppert said.

During its temporary closure to the public, the library continued to offer phone and curbside services.

The Friends of the Aiken County Public Library and Aiken County government are funding the library’s major renovation, which will cost several million dollars.

The county is providing $2 for every $1 contributed by the Friends of the Library, which also is conducting a campaign to generate additional money.

The library’s front steps were demolished and replaced during the refurbishment’s first phase, which was completed in April 2020.

During the second phase, the facility’s interior is being renovated and a new elevator is being installed.

Everything is scheduled to be finished in December.

“I’m so thrilled that we’re at about the halfway point of the project,” said Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System, on Friday. “But this is not the final appearance of the second floor. It’s going to get even better. We’ve got some new furniture coming next week.”

“I want to thank the community in advance for their patience as our second floor continues to evolve before their eyes and as they wait for the first floor’s completion,” Dawson said.

The library is at 314 Chesterfield St. S in Aiken. It is located in the south wing of a brick building that was constructed prior to World War II.

For more information, visit abbe-lib.org.