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Waccamaw Library: First year in new building is one for the record books

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Even eternal optimist Dwight McInvaill is blown away by the numbers posted during the first year of the new Waccamaw Library at Willbrook.

“This is probably the most popular building on the Waccamaw Neck,” said McInvaill, county library director, during a first birthday party for the facility at 41 St. Paul Pl. last week. “It’s been better than advertised. If you walk through the library at almost any time, you have all types of people using it in different ways. You can see kids after school. They come in droves. People are using the auditorium for everything from homeowners meetings to films to cultural events. You see small rooms used by community groups. You see people on computers. The children’s area is full of kids. It’s much busier than I had even imagined. It’s just a wonderful situation.”

Librarian Carlethia Rudolph gathered statistics to illustrate the growth at the facility in its first year. None are more telling than 250 percent growth in new patrons: from 741 in 2014 to 1,893 in 2015. Book circulation numbers are up too: from 52,927 to 78,195.

Ted Hiley, co-chairman with Jean Cross of a fund-raising drive for the new library, said he can’t believe a year has gone by so quickly. “We had the vision,” he said, “but it’s hard to know how that’s actually going to turn out.” He said the auditorium proved its worth right away, hosting a community meeting on the new Highway 17 median project. The library hosted 603 meetings last year, compared to 201 the year before in the old building. “It’s created an opportunity for people to gather,” Hiley said. “The number of people the library has served is huge compared to previous years.”

Cross agreed, citing the use of the small meeting rooms as an example of a need being met. “It’s really a great facility,” she said. “We are just glad the community has responded.”

Diane Stern, president of the Friends of the Waccamaw Library, said the group gave the county $217,000 toward construction of the building and spent $13,000 for books, DVD’s and children’s programming, $2,000 for equipment and furniture and $3,000 on the Lowcountry Rice Forum. In the coming year, the group will pick up maintenance costs for the library’s two big fish tanks, a gift from Nancy Bracken in honor of her late husband, John.

McInvaill thanked Stern for picking up the duties of Friends president in midstream upon the death of president Kathy Gramet last year. “One of the sad parts is celebrating this without her present,” Hiley said.

McInvaill said the Friends will help guide a new group in the Sampit-Santee-Saints Delight community on a plan to build their own library. “We are drawing up the site rendering and going through the same seven-year process that it took us to get this facility,” he said.

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