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Public, officials should support library expansion

    Libraries are important. And as the Pickens County Library’s current building celebrates its 20th year, the community needs our local and state representatives to get behind a proposed expansion that would add 8,000 square feet to its footprint.
    That’s 8,000 square feet of more book space, more computer space and more space to find a quiet place to read or participate in the many programs offered there each week. From LEGO robotics to bingo nights, teen advisory groups, story times for young kids or the fiction book club, our library provides great opportunities to get involved and stay intellectually active.
    Our library, which was built in 1996 and has nearly 40,000 books, is a cornerstone of our community providing people the opportunity to explore history, experience new ideas, get lost in wonderful stories, while also giving a sense of place and spaces for public gatherings.
    The library here is often the only readily available source of comprehensive information for personal, family and job-related questions. Over summer vacation - or last week’s fall break - evenings and weekends, the county library is the only library available to school children; for preschoolers it is simply the only library available. The Pickens County Library is a lifeline to the world and all the information in it.
    As the library continues to struggle to keep up with the many changes in technology, rising costs of books and other materials and a growing demand from patrons for more information, its board is working to make sure they see to the needs of the community.
    According to Susan White, library board member and a board member of the support group Friends of the Pickens Library, they are seeking to expand the current 20-year-old facility. The board has hired an architectural firm and put forth preliminary plans for the much-needed renovations. Local money to fund the project is currently being collected from the SPLOST, but local officials are waiting for a needed $2 million from the state to continue with the project. 
    We’d like to encourage Representative Rick Jasperse and our two senators, Charlie Bethel and Steve Gooch, to speak up on our local library’s behalf and support the project when the legislative session begins in January.
    When Representative Jasperse, the county commissioners and our senators meet next week for a tour of the library to see the plans, please remember that state support is essential to getting this project on more than a drawing board.
    A significant proportion of the population – 23 percent according to the Office of National Statistics - does not have an internet connection at home.  The people most in need of our library services are the unemployed, those on low incomes, senior citizens and other who may not have internet access at home. Students who don’t have internet access at the library simply could not complete some assignments.
    Americans read an average of 12 books per year, according to the Pew Research Center. A renovated Pickens Library is the best spot to get lost among the shelves searching for stories from Rowling, Keats, Grisham, King or Hawkins. 
    A library is not just a place for picking up a book; it is the social experience of reading, talking about the books, browsing. Libraries open doors to new worlds, new possibilities. So as our representatives will tour the facility next week and see it as it currently is, we’d ask you to think about something more. Think about what the library could become with these much-needed renovations and expansion. Our library needs to remain a place for learning and intellectual socializing.
    Don’t forget: The Friends of the Pickens Library book sale is set for Thursday, October 27th (for members) through Saturday, October 29th. Come find your new favorite book while you browse thousands of titles.