Public to get first look at interior renovations to Aiken County Public Library on Friday

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Jul. 12—The work isn't finished yet, but visitors will notice some major changes and improvements Friday when they are allowed back inside the Aiken County Public Library.

Because of ongoing renovations, only phone and curbside services have been available since May 10.

"We're very excited," said Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System. "The community has been very supportive and patient during this time period, but we know there is no substitute for being in the building."

The library is in the south wing of a brick structure that was constructed prior to World War II.

When they enter Friday, patrons should use the elevator in the back of the building in the north wing or a stairwell that is located nearby.

The public will be restricted to the second floor because of the refurbishment that is taking place on the first floor.

"We will have something for everyone on the second floor," Dawson said. "We've tried to have every collection represented to a certain degree, but we don't have the space right now for everything. If we don't have something (on the second floor), we'll do our best to have it retrieved."

The renovation of the second floor is almost finished.

Visitors will see "a big, beautiful, well-lit open area," said Bill Reynolds, president of the Friends of the Aiken County Public Library.

A new 14-person conference room and the new Wessinger Reading Area are located there.

The overhaul of the second floor was supposed to be finished by now, "but the shortages in a lot of industries (because of the novel coronavirus pandemic) have caught up with us on some key items," Reynolds said. "When people come here on Friday, there won't be any doors because the door manufacturer told us recently that they don't know when we're going to get them."

The second floor's new furniture also won't arrive by Friday.

Reynolds expects it to be delivered next week.

Some of the library's old second floor furniture is being reupholstered, but Reynolds didn't know when that would be finished.

In addition, the new elevator that is being installed won't be ready for library visitors to use Friday.

The shaft is at the front of the building in the north wing. A courtyard adjacent to the new elevator's entrance also is being constructed.

"We haven't been able to get the samples of the new stucco that is going to be put on the outside of the building there," Reynolds said. "That's what's been kind of slowing us down."

The library is in the midst of the second phase of the multimillion-dollar refurbishment.

During the first phase, which was completed in April 2020, the library's front steps were torn down and replaced.

The focus of the second phase is the facility's interior and the new elevator's installation.

J.E. Stewart Builders of Aiken was the contractor for the first phase and is serving in the same capacity during the second phase.

Greenville-based McMillan Pazdan Smith is the project's architect.

The Friends of the Library have teamed up with Aiken County government to pay for the library's modernization.

Under the original funding plan, the county is providing $2 for every $1 contributed by Friends of the Library.

The project's total estimated cost was around $3 million at first.

But there have been additional expenses, Reynolds told the Aiken Standard in May.

The Friends of the Library is conducting a fundraising campaign to cover those additional costs.

The goal is to generate at least $500,000.

The library is at 314 Chesterfield St. S. in Aiken.

For more information, visit abbe-lib.org or aikenlibraryfriends.org.

The library's operating hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, the hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday.

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