Northeast Richland, which caters to young readers, would get new library

dhinshaw@thestate.comOctober 27, 2013 

Lucia Gomez, 7, reads to Josh at Richland Library Sandhills last week as the dog's owner, Warren Brussee, listens in. The library's popular "Read to a Dog" program pairs young book lovers with very soft and patient companions.

DAWN HINSHAW — dhinshaw@thestate.com Buy Photo

Young readers build confidence by reading aloud to Josh and Nester, who never correct them when they mispronounce words – though occasionally they might lay a paw on a dog-eared page.

The “Read to a Dog” program, which started at Richland Library Sandhills in 2011, serves a dozen or more children each Wednesday afternoon.

“That was her first friend,” said new resident Leticia Gomez as her 7-year old, Lucia, wrapped up a 15-minute visit with Josh, a black-and-white Newfoundland. “She tells all her friends at school about him.”

“And he tells all his friends about her,” responded Josh’s human, Warren Brussee.

The Sandhills branch is a noisy gathering place after school when parents, children and tutors converge on the 10,000-square foot library inside the walls of The Summit.

Under a proposal before voters Nov. 5, Sandhills would get a new and larger library, relocated to a site that spokeswoman Padgett Mozingo said hasn’t been determined but ideally would be nearby. She acknowledged one of the sites the library board would like to explore is the state-owned Clemson Sandhill Research and Education Center.

If the property-tax is approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $12 to $14 more each year for the next 20 years, officials have said.

Now cramped and noisy, Sandhills would triple in size to become the largest branch, with a 250-500 seat auditorium, lounge with exhibit space and restaurant-style catering kitchen, among other amenities.

As the Richland library system looks to transform structures built to collect and circulate books into community centers shared by all sorts of groups and programs, the Sandhills library would change more than any other.

“Whenever I’ve been in here, it’s always crowded,” said Alice Harris, perched on a kid-sized stool while daughter April wandered among the stacks.

Julie Beech joins her two great-grandchildren at the library every Wednesday afternoon.

“We have a family library card, so we can take advantage of all the things they offer – and I find they offer a lot, especially for kids,” Beech said.

Sandhills manager Jim Staskowski said the library has attempted to cater to middle-school students, since it’s so close to Summit Parkway Middle School. Twice a week, it hosts a homework lab with librarians who serve as tutors.

Though it is the same size as neighborhood libraries along North Main Street and Trenholm Road, Sandhills circulates the largest number of materials among the 10 branches. And what’s striking, Staskowski said, is that 39 percent of its circulated materials is geared toward juveniles.

More on the additions planned for Richland Library Sandhills, which opened in 1993:

• A lounge area with exhibit space and circulation kiosks

• 250-500 seat auditorium, which would be shared with a partner organization

• Family-friendly restrooms

• Restaurant-style catering kitchen

• 70-person meeting room with storage

• Two large conference rooms

• Four small tutor or conference rooms

• Separate computer area in children’s department

• Outside programming space and patio

• Space for three community partners, which could include agencies providing health screenings, counseling or literacy services

Covered drop-off area

• Covered book returns.

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.

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