by Stephen Delaney Hale – June 16, 2021
The Friends of the Aiken County Public Library are just rolling out the Business & Industry component of their $500,000 fundraising effort to produce a “Library of the Future” and this notice in Augusta Business Daily is the first for those who want to join in this significant effort.
And as a quirk of fate and epidemiology, “We are already 3/5ths of the way to their goal,” says Friends Chairman Bill Reynolds.
“We announced our effort to make long-needed improvements to our County Library and add technical infrastructure for the digital age on January 20, 2020, just before the stock market swooned on the uncertainty and fear from the outbreak of Covid-19,” recalled Reynolds last week.
“We weren’t really even started when we had to go dormant until the crisis played out,” Reynolds said.
But the plans were already drawn up and enough word-of-mouth interest spread across the routinely generous, and literate, Aiken population, that many individuals called up to make contributions.
“We have already raised $325,000 of the $500,000 goal from private donations even before we have had time to kick off our corporate/business appeal,” he said, sounding like a man both pleased with and proud of his town. Also, Aiken-owned Security Federal Bank has joined the team effort, he said.
As an example, Reynolds said, “We just got a $20,000 donation from a friend who wants us to install six new computers and six new televisions around the library,” Reynolds said, and that sort of spontaneous generosity has been going on for a year and a half without the force of a campaign behind it.
The overall numbers are $3 million to be raised for the “21st Century Library,” of which $2 million has been approved by Aiken County. The Friends of the Aiken County Library have agreed to supply $1 million, half of which is to come from within the organization and half from the fundraising campaign. “It is to fund our portion of the elevator and other improvements such as technology, children and teens program equipment, landscaping, and other needed improvements,” Reynolds said.
“But it is important that we increase awareness of our cause,” said Reynolds. “David Jameson of the Chamber of Commerce and Will Williams of the Economic Development Partnership have told us from the start that a modern, accessible library is really important to a community for attracting new businesses and families because that is among the things they look for, public schools, public safety, and an excellent library. There are cities in South Carolina that have taken huge strides in upgrading to great libraries and it benefits everyone.”
“Nothing had been done here in thirty years,” says Reynolds. “Our library has fallen behind relative to other libraries across the state.”
And the Aiken library has had that one glaring handicap, the perfect word for the front staircase that has made the building practically inaccessible to the elder population and certainly to anyone with disabilities, Reynolds emphasized.
But a new, broad sweeping stairway has already been installed to the delight of everyone, although it awaits more fundraising to pay for it. Also, the old elevator often did not operate, and people didn’t know how to access it. A brand new one is sitting in crates behind the library now ready for installation with a new design that will open onto the main parking lot, well-lit and with several safety advancements.
Good will hunting
“Any business out there can have their bright shiny logo on the stairway for $100,000 or on the elevator for $75,000 and I am sure they will get a lot more than that back in goodwill from the readers of Aiken County,” said Reynolds.
Anyone interested in helping Aiken County produce a 21st Century library can get in touch with the Friends of the Aiken County Library in several ways. They may call (803) 979-3390, email Bill Reyolds at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the group’s website at www.Aikenlibraryfriends.org.