RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — What the Ballentine library lacks in size, it makes up for in circulation.
“We are the smallest at this point,” managing librarian Kelly Jones said as she showed off the bright and orderly spot. “So we are very compact.”
The Richland County system’s newest branch, Ballentine was served strictly by a bookmobile until 2006.
That year, a rented storefront along busy Dutch Fork Road was upfitted into a 2,100-square-foot library.
Patrons pack the place, Jones said.
Last year, they checked out 283,086 items – a higher circulation than at other, larger branches including Blythewood and Wheatley, in Shandon; North Main and Eastover.
The decision to build a new, larger library was based on high use and community feedback, spokeswoman Laura Bliss Morris said.
If voters approve a property-tax increase Nov. 5, Ballentine would get a new library – seven times larger than the current space. And at 15,000-square feet, it would go from being the smallest branch to sixth among the 10 branches.
One day last week, a set of shelves in back was crammed with books on hold.
Up front, patrons could pick up a phone equipped with a video screen to be automatically connected to a reference librarian downtown.
“Isn’t it a charming little library? Very welcoming,” said Jane Long, who stopped by with her 11-month-old grandson, Jackson, to play with puzzles and peruse the heavy, cardboard books.
“This community needs a much larger space, and a much larger selection of books,” said Long, who lives in Lexington County.
Patrons who don’t live in Richland County pay $65 a year for a library card, which county residents get for free. Morris said the system has 2,331 out-of-county card holders, about 1 percent of its total.
If the library referendum passes, a new branch serving the northwest part of the county, near Lake Murray, would be built on seven acres purchased last year just across Dutch Fork Road, near the Walmart.
It would feature:
• A 70-person meeting room, with storage
• A large conference room
• Two tutor or small conference rooms
• A 12-person learning lab
• Space for two community partners, such as health and human service providers
• A covered drop-off and book return
Circulation kiosks and self-service stations
• Outdoor programming space.
In addition, the library may add a drive-up window where patrons could pick up their books on hold.
Where would the money go?
On Nov. 5, the library is asking Richland County voters for permission to borrow $59 million for systemwide improvements. Some highlights:
Main library: Renovation and reconfiguration. New heating and air systems; multipurpose meeting space and conference room; exterior improvements for families with strollers.
Ballentine: New library. Seventy-person meeting room and conference room.
Blythewood: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Teen space, meeting room, larger restrooms, learning lab, group study room.
Cooper: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Teen space, 12-student learning lab, two tutor rooms or small conference rooms. Expand meeting space with kitchen.
Eastover (completed in April): Renovation and expansion. Meeting room, tutor room and additional computers. Children’s area by EdVenture.
Northeast: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Small conference room, 12-student learning lab, expand meeting room with kitchen.
North Main: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Teen space, 12-student learning lab, two tutor rooms or small conference rooms, expand meeting room with kitchen.
Sandhills: New library. Lounge and exhibit space, 250-500 seat auditorium to be shared with a partner organization, computer area in children’s department.
Southeast: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Four tutoring or small conference rooms, meeting space with kitchen.
St. Andrews: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Teen space, meeting room with kitchen.
Wheatley: Renovation, reconfiguration and expansion. Increased children’s space.
NOTE: For all the details, see http://richlandlibrary.com/about
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.