WARNER ROBINS -- The Houston County library system is about to take another big leap forward.
The Nola Brantley Memorial Library is set to reopen Nov. 4 following a $1.9 million renovation. The opening comes three years after the county opened a new library in Centerville, and next year the librarys Perry branch will undergo a major renovation.
Houston County Commissioner Larry Thomson, who has been the commissions liaison to the library board since he was elected in 1999, said the countys library system has come a long way in just a few years. And when the Perry branch is completed, he said, it will be one of the best in the state.
The work on the Nola Brantley building is done, and next week the furniture, books and computers are scheduled to be moved back in.
Thomson, Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker and Will Rigdon, the project manager, gave a tour of the building Friday. They said the project has gone well and will finish ahead of schedule and under budget.
The work included an expansion of about 5,000 square feet, complete renovation of the old building and the addition of 32 new public-access computers. It will also have a significantly larger childrens area, a bigger history room and a separate teen room. Thomson said the teen room is designed to give teens a safe place to socialize.
The library also has all-new landscaping, which was handled by the countys Public Works Department.
We got a real big bang for our buck, Thomson said.
The county will save some money on library expenses as a result of a more efficient heating and air system, Stalnaker said.
Thomson didnt become the commissions liaison to the library board because he had any particular interest in it at the time. He said he inherited the role from his predecessor but has come to appreciate it.
I never knew the library system meant so much to the community, he said.
In an age where people can find out most anything from a home computer, it might seem that libraries are getting obsolete, but thats far from the case. Stalnaker was visiting the Nola Brantley Library one day before it closed for renovations when he noticed the large number of people there. He asked what special event was going on and was surprised when he was told that was a normal crowd.
In the last full fiscal year before the renovations began, Nola Brantley had 130,184 visits, and 238,629 items were checked out. Thomson said the branch is important because it is used a lot by military personnel at Robins Air Force Base, and it serves as the library for adjacent Middle Georgia State College.
A lot of people use this library, and they cant wait for it to open, Thomson said.
During the renovations the library has been operating out of a former bank building across the street.
We are very excited to go back to it, and the patrons are very excited, said Laura Howell, the head of circulation, as she worked in the cramped, temporary branch Friday.
The Nola Brantley renovation, the new Centerville library and the upcoming renovation to the Perry library were paid for with special purpose local option sales tax dollars.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.