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Waccamaw Library: More of everything, plus more to come

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Michael Walker, architect for the new Waccamaw branch of the Georgetown County Library, isn’t ready to celebrate even though the doors will open to the public Saturday morning.

His attention to detail is evident everywhere, from the cypress boards on the entryway walls, to the rock gardens at the bases of the building’s gutters, to a steel tower for skateboards and an herb garden out front. Walker directs a visitor to his favorite place in the new library, a corner with big windows that let in natural light and overlook the rock gardens and forested wetlands that shield the building from Willbrook Boulevard. He likes seeing the bike path through the trees and the way it connects the river and the ocean. He can envision a library patron curling up with a book in an upholstered chair.

Walker still has time to tweak his masterpiece. The formal opening won’t be until March 19. “I get to think about it,” he said.

Librarian Dwight McInvaill doesn’t have that luxury. It’s full speed ahead for him and the library staff that has doubled for the big, new facility and its expanded programs. Branch librarian Carlethia Rudolph was emptying boxes in her new office this week and working through a hundred last minute details that included a snafu that kept the computers from working.

McInvaill found time to lead a tour for members of the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Georgetown class. The cypress boards on the walls and interior columns give the building its Lowcountry feel, he said. “The architect called in every single marker due to him to get this wood,” McInvaill said. “You do not see this in public buildings.”

The cypress boards will darken with age, he said, and become a form of artwork all their own. The boards are mid- to low-grade with knotholes and dark streaks. They will expand and shrink with the weather. The floor of the library’s lobby is covered in a faux wood vinyl and was one of the concessions made to keep the project under its $3.5 million budget. Walker said the commercial wood grained vinyl has gained popularity for its durability. “Bistro 217 mops it every day,” he said. The building is designed so the foyer, the meeting rooms and restrooms can be open for gatherings and banquets at night while the Friends shop and the main library is locked. The vinyl floor would stand up to any kind of party, and with the library directors’ recent approval of the county policy allowing the serving of beer and wine at the facility, any spills.

There are two big-screen television sets attached to the walls of the foyer that will promote library programs. Glass-enclosed shelves will hold public exhibits.

Doors leading to the main auditorium contain opaque glass depicting rice sheaves. There is room for 200 in the new community room — the meeting room at the Pawleys Island branch held 70. There is an 80-inch television on the northern wall for program purposes. “It looked huge in the old building when it was in storage,” Trudy Bazemore, assistant library director said. “It looks like a postage stamp in here, but it’s going to be nice for programs.” The television can augment images projected on a big screen at the front of the room. “The electricians said that screen is the bomb,” Bazemore said. A French film festival and a series of Friday night movies will provide its first tests.

The building’s lot is narrow and the library was designed to become wider as visitors enter. The teen tech room offers completely new programming for the Waccamaw Neck with big screen televisions on the walls and computer stations. There are shelves of books that will appeal to youth in the room. They have to read in order to get time on the computers. “There’s method in our madness,” McInvaill said. Giving teens computer access for games and learning has been so successful at the Carvers Bay branch library, it’s been replicated at other branches. The Pawleys Island library had no space for the program, but McInvaill has moved the library’s chief computer tech from Georgetown to the Waccamaw branch.

John Collins, new adult services librarian, is stationed in the middle of the main space. Formerly the bookmobile librarian, he was promoted to this new position after McInvaill was impressed with the program’s growth. The children’s library will occupy two spaces. It’s primary room will be separated from the adult area by two big aquariums that were donated in memory of John Bracken. They have not been installed yet, so don’t expect to see fish on opening day. The main desk resembles a big tree with bark on its exterior and a green band on the ceiling. “Tree of Knowledge” is the theme. A second room in the children’s library is enclosed in glass to tamp down the noise from storytimes. With few walls, the library allows employees a full field of vision inside the building.

The back of the library overlooks a retention pond and wetlands the designers maintained. McInvaill said that Bracken, a fierce environmentalist, promised to haunt him if he disturbed those wetlands. Upholstered chairs provide a comfortable place for patrons to sit and read in the natural light. McInvaill said he has regretted buying wooden chairs for the main branch in Georgetown. He said he hopes to find a donor for a patio at the back of the building.

Additional employees were necessary for the new branch to reach its potential, McInvaill. He hired Steele Bremner as program director. Her first presentation will be “The Walk of the Waccamaw People” and feature Chief Buster Hatcher as a speaker along with roundtables on herbs, recipes, crops and healing. Bremner is a dance and exercise instructor and plans programs on working out, nutrition and health in addition to guest authors.

“There are not a lot of libraries our size in the country that have this position,” McInvaill said. “This is a highly educated, highly cultured, forward thinking community, and it needs a position like this. I am so grateful we have this position and Steele.”

The building’s exterior colors blend with the natural environment. The rocks that catch rain water, the landscaping and even the retention pond separate it from the hubbub of the schools and fire station nearby. “When it’s all said and done,” Walker said, “I think the building will speak for itself. People will take their own interpretation of it. That’s the ultimate design, not telling you but trying to live a story.”

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