Residents of the east end of Liberty County can soon patronize a new and improved neighborhood library. The Midway-Riceboro Branch of the Live Oak Public Library will open at 10 a.m. Monday.
The library is in the new Liberty County Community Complex on Highway 84.
“We broke ground a little over a year ago,” said Christian Kruse, Live Oak Public Library director. Kruse oversees the library system in Liberty, Effingham and Chatham counties.
Liberty County Manager Joey Brown said renovations for the community complex were paid for with $5.2 million in special local-option sales-tax funds. County officials announced Thursday that a grand opening for the complex will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 22.
“The community center has evolved over several phases and was developed as funding allowed,” Brown said. “It was the original Liberty County High School which was transformed into an elementary school by the board of education when the new Liberty County High School opened. Facing abandonment, the Liberty County Board of Education and Liberty County Board of Commissioners agreed to transfer properties, the school site for a piece of the old Liberty County airport. The piece of the old airport would eventually house the new career academy. Part of the old school was demolished as part of phase I. Phase II is the most recently completed phase which you see now.”
Phase II of the complex offers a community meeting room, the new library branch, a recreation programming room, a pool, and administrative services for the area, he said.
“The final phase, phase III, would involve a walking trail, gym renovations, pavilion, and sports fields to the complex,” Brown added.
Kruse said he and library personnel are excited about the new library. The former branch library was in a 1,000-square foot building. The new, expanded branch will have just under 5,000-square feet, Kruse said.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.
Kruse said there was no comfortable seating or space for programs or technology in the old library.
“We gained spaces that will make it a true library experience,” he said.
There will be a designated, tiered seating area for children’s story-time and a computer lab with 12 computers for patrons, as well as work space and Wi-Fi access for patrons to set up their own laptops and tablets, according to the library system director.
Kruse said the community complex’s amenities, such as swimming pool and playground, will help draw people into the library, once the complex is completed.
Kruse and Susan Lee, Live Oak Public Libraries public relations coordinator, said the new branch will nearly double its hours, from 25 to 48 hours each week. Both said library patrons have expressed a desire for improved library access for years.
“I think people down there have wanted more services for a while and this project really meets a need,” Kruse said. He and Lee expect library use to spike, because of the increased hours and patrons utilizing the library computers and Wi-Fi access. Kruse said a lot of residents have had to cut down on their home internet services, due to the poor economy. He said a significant number of job applicants use the computers at public libraries to help them in their employment search.
“And for us, the additional space will mean that we can better roll out our tutor.com program,” Kruse added.
The free, online tutoring can be accessed via computer, tablet or smart phone. It caters to students in first through 12th grades, college students and adults needing to further learning or who need career assistance. The tutors work from their homes or offices across the country, and include certified teachers and college professors, according to tutor.com.
Lee said patrons of the new branch library also can contribute to a giving tree, which should be installed by the end of the year. The tree allows people to “celebrate the lives and achievements of their loved ones,” she said. Donations for a leaf on the tree benefit the Live Oak Public Libraries Foundation.
Kruse said the branch library will also overlook a garden designed by Keep Liberty Beautiful. The non-profit organization will have an office in the complex, he said.
Bonnie Boccio is the manager for Midway-Riceboro Branch. Betsy Stow is Liberty County librarian.
James W. Buckley and Associates Inc. was the project architect, and Pope Construction was the contractor, according to Lee.
For more information, call 884-5742.