If things go as planned, work could begin on a new Richmond Hill Public Library within a year.
That almost seems like just around the corner, given the process so far.
Local government and library officials have been working off and on for more than a decade to reach this point, and it took nearly a year for Richmond Hill and Bryan County to sign an agreement first announced in October to locate the library at the city’s new Town Centre.
That agreement apparently became formal during a ceremony Aug. 19 in which Mayor Russ Carpenter and County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger signed a memorandum of understanding which opens the door for some $2 million in state funding to start building the facility.
Both officials praised the agreement by which the city donates the land and the county helps fund construction. Infinger said the measure, called a memorandum of understanding, is “just the next step in the process. We’ve still got a little ways to go but this is a huge hurdle for us to get over, signing this memo.”
Carpenter said the city’s vision of “creating a downtown” in the Town Centre included “a downtown library as a part of that,” and keeping the library within the city limits was vital.
While some details are still vague, the memorandum allows officials to begin applying to the state for fundings to get work on the project started, according to Jennifer Durham, director of the Statesboro Regional Library, of which Richmond Hill and Pembroke libraries are a part.
Officials still have to design the new facility, though Durham said focus groups have said they want more meeting space, more room for book collections for readers of all ages, and more computers.
The current Richmond Hill Library has been considered too small for years. At 8,034 square feet, it holds 28,600 books, DVDs and audiobooks in its collection, and has four computers dedicated to youngsters, seven for the general public and a “quick use” computer, comparable perhaps to an express lane at a supermarket.
There are 11,780 active library cards registered to Richmond Hill Library patrons that’ve been used within the last three years, and in an average month about 1,000 cardholders either put on hold 1,000 items while checking out 9,000 items, Durham said.
During the Richmond Hill Library’s 2019 fiscal year, there were 73,500 visitors, while 4,500 people attended a library sponsored program and there were 11,000 computer sessions were logged.
“We first started working on the application for a new or expanded building in Richmond Hill about 12 years ago,” Durham said. “As soon as we completed renovations to the current library as it stand right now, we knew it was inadequate. Bryan County just grows too fast to keep up.”
The biggest hurdle, she said, “was finding a suitable land space.”