A new look for the Augusta County Library

The building now home to the main branch of the Augusta County Library opened in the 1930s as the Fishersville Elementary School. It was last renovated in 1983.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the work being done at the site of late has come up with some interesting finds.

“We found out that it was in worse shape than we had actually thought,” said Wendell Coleman, who represents the Wayne District, including Fishersville, on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, on the ongoing $2.36 million renovation of the library.

The first phase, at a cost of $1.16 million, added a new dedicated children’s wing to the library and a new front entrance facing U.S. 250.

“We’d been here 25 years, and there were still people in the community who didn’t know that we were here. Oh, that’s what that white building over there is? That’s one reason for moving the entrance to facing 250. A library is a significant building in the community, and we want to emphasize that,” library director Diantha McCauley said.

The children’s wing and new entrance were the highlights of the 5,625-square-foot expansion of the building on the library’s back end. Work is now ongoing on older sections of the library with a focus on converting the old periodicals room into space for more bookstacks and updating staff offices.

Planning on the project began in 2005 as library staff and county leaders looked at growing usage of the library and the changing needs of the community relative to its library.

“We decided that we needed some extra space and some changed space. This is the main administrative building for a growing library system. We felt some change was due to reflect the growth that we’ve seen,” McCauley said.

The nature of libraries has changed a bit since 1983. “Computers have changed everything that we do,” McCauley said. “Libraries are no longer just a book depository. We still serve that purpose, but we’ve seen growth in the number and types of uses over the years. People come here to study, people come here to meet other people, they come here for group meetings. We need to be able to adapt to the uses that the public wants and expects from libraries today.”

To that end, the library included as a design feature in the new circulation area in the new wing of the library building space for a coffee bar and spaces for people to bring and set up their laptop computers to use inside.

The response to the effort, which should wrap up with the completion of work on phase two of the project slated for November, “has been overwhelmingly positive,” McCauley said.

“The reaction has been, Wow! This is so much better! The change in colors, the change in lighting, the use of the space. Some people have said it feels like a big-city library, and that the county deserves to have a library like this,” McCauley said.

The project has gotten caught up, if only briefly, in an unrelated controversy over emergency-response times in the Fishersville area. Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles has been critical of the spending related to the library expansion in the context of the money that will have to be committed to addressing emergency-services needs in the county.

“And at the same time that we’re making the library fancier, we’re cutting their budget. The state has cut their budget, the county has cut their budget. We’re operating less hours now. None of this makes any sense,” Pyles said.

Coleman defends the work on the library as being “long overdue.”

“I’m proud to say that we didn’t borrow the first dime to do phase one or phase two. I think Augusta County ought to be commended for that. I mean, look at the struggles that our friends over in Waynesboro are having because they failed to plan for that kind of stuff. We didn’t plan to fail for it. We didn’t have to borrow a bunch of money to get this done. We had a plan in place, and we followed it,” Coleman said.
 

Slideshow: Inside the Library

 
 

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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