New library checks in

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- When the new Porter Memorial Branch Library opens to the public at 11 a.m. Monday, it will be missing something very important: books.

Not that there won't be some books there along with DVDs as well as other resources. There just won't be enough.

"We had hoped to open with 40,000 items on the shelves and it's looking like we'll have about 17,000," said Acting Library Director Bob Halcums. "The staff is very creative. They don't want things to look bad. They've done a really nice job of rearranging the shelves so they look good."

If no more books are added, within a month of opening, the library will be down to about 1,500 items on the shelves, Halcums estimated. That will mean the facility will look very bare. The shortfall is due to a lack of funds.

"We had the money to build the branch, but then the money wasn't there to put the books into it," Halcums said, adding that state money for materials has dried up. The state provides some funds for salaries and operations and the county subsidizes some of the difference, Halcums said.

Former Newton County Commissioner Earnest Simmons attempted to get the library some additional funding for materials through SPLOST 2011, but it was not included on the projects list. With no more money coming from the state or the county, the library is leaning on donations from the community to complete its collection, Halcums said. In order to get to 40,000 items, an additional $400,000 is needed.

"We have generous benefactors such as the Porter Fund, Friends of the Library and organizations across the county that have come to our rescue. But it's hard to make up $400,000," he said.

Monetary and book donations are welcome from the community. Used books will be sold by Friends of the Library with the money used to purchase new materials. More information can be obtained by calling 770-787-3231.

Meanwhile, six full-time and four part-time staff members are busy training this week in preparation for the opening.

"The staff at Porter is being trained this week so they will be ready on Monday. They are well aware of the shortage and how much more customer friendly they will have to be to accommodate that," Halcums said.

The library will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The $5 million facility was funded through impact fees, a state grant and private donations. At 18,000 square feet, the library will be slightly more than half the size of the Covington branch. The library will feature adult and children's books, audio books, DVDs and music CDs, public computing with Internet access, plus a teen room, quiet room, study rooms, and meeting and conference rooms. It has been built to LEED standards, meaning it is an environmentally friendly facility.

"We're certainly excited to have a brand new building in that part of the county that's been underserved. It will feature all the same items they are used to here: Books, DVDs, music, computers, and the staff will be here to help them find what they need," Halcums said.

The library is located at 6191 Ga. Highway 212. A grand opening will take place later this month.