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Library: Before new branch opens, patrons will go without

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The Waccamaw Library will close for six weeks on Jan. 5, and the staff will begin moving to the new facility at Willbrook Boulevard.

Library employees will spend a week or two boxing books, and a moving company will take the shelves to the new building where they will be integrated with new shelving and furniture. “We are on a real tight schedule,” Georgetown County library director Dwight McInvaill told the Friends of the Waccamaw Library at their annual meeting last week. He hopes to open the doors by mid-February and get the kinks out by the grand opening in early March.

McInvaill told the Friends group that the new branch will have more “human fabric” in order to take the library’s services into the communities of the Waccamaw Neck like never before. He said the emphasis on service at a new facility is something he learned from his mentor, John Wayne Jones. “Dwight, beware when you open up a new library,” his mentor said. “That’s when library directors get fired.” McInvaill said the new branch will have an adult librarian and an assistant along with a community outreach specialist as part of an expanded staff. “We are trying to create a staff that will make the place pop,” he said, “and also get outside the walls of the library and dynamically infuse themselves in the entire community.” Library outreach will include schools and child care centers in order to reach young children.

McInvaill said the bookmobile will go full-time and make more visits to the Pawleys Island area communities once the branch on Commerce Drive is closed. “People are concerned that we are leaving this community,” McInvaill said. “We talked years ago about how we could impact the community: expand the bookmobile.

Donald Dennis, teen technology librarian, will move to the new Waccamaw branch. “This will be the focal point for teen technology,” McInvaill said. The Georgetown County Library recently received a federal Sparks Grant — only 15 were awarded nationwide — to teach youngsters how to create phone apps. Children who read a certain number of books will be allowed to play video games. “There’s a method to the madness,” McInvaill said.

The new building will lend itself to all sorts of new uses, according to architect Michael Walker. “We met with small groups, with staff and members of the community to get their dreams and aspirations put together,” he told the Friends. “At one level or another we have hit on most things people talked about.”

He said the site near Midway Fire and Rescue headquarters and Waccamaw Intermediate School had some limitations. It was long and narrow with no access to Willbrook Boulevard. “What I love about it,” Walker said, “is that the bike path goes there. The trees let you see a snippet of something in the woods. Next year at this time, when it’s dark and the lights are on at the library, people will wonder what’s back there.”

Walker said the building provides the illusion of being small from the outside. Patrons will be surprised how large it is once they go inside. “One of the early ideas was to give a sense of community pride,” he said. “Another was to give a sense of connectivity, not only to the bike path and the school but to the larger community.” There will be spaces for children, teens and adults to have quiet reading time or gather in groups. Public areas will be open for meetings after the library is closed for the night. “Two meeting rooms on the left are free to all,” Walker said. “That’s one of the major concepts that public libraries have. In those spaces you can gather 10 people, you can gather 20 people. People will find different ways to use them once they discover it’s available. On the right is a larger room, over twice the size of the meeting room at the Pawleys Island branch, that will accommodate 180 people with large screens on two walls. It invites multiple meetings with uses people probably haven’t thought of yet.”

Glass walls will keep noise from the teen area from disturbing other patrons in the evenings, Walker said. During school hours, adults will have access to the teen area’s eight computers. Those are in addition to the 24 terminals in the library’s “information commons” that includes 24 other seats to accommodate patrons using their own computers and even those who want to read a book. “You can feel like you belong to something,” Walker said. “One of the things we found in all these discussions of why people go to the library is they like social interaction. You can stay at home and be by yourself just so long. It’s nice to be part of something and feel part of the energy of being around other people.”

Library visitors will be invited to look outside from a lounge with big glass windows. Other seating called the “Living Edge” will be bathed in morning or afternoon sun. Cypress on interior walls provides a sense of place. A planter filled with rocks — Walker called it a didactic element — will catch rain water from the roof and let it flow to a wetland at the back of the property. Entrance to the children’s area is flanked by two fish tanks. It is defined by lower book stacks and a circular desk that represents the growth of a child and development of learning, he said.

The building’s exterior appears to blend with its environment, Walker said, and the facility will be energy efficient with all LED lighting. “It will speak for itself when it’s done,” he said, “but I feel like we’re on the right track. It’s been a labor of love. A lot of people have committed a lot of time. Their dreams have been answered. We have some place we can be proud of and will be there for a long time.”

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