Ronnie Fernandez looks forward to spending this summer at the new library in Hanahan with her two preschoolers.
"It's opening just in time," she said. "It will be a nice place to hang out and read when it gets hot outside. Last summer, I took them downtown Charleston to the library because it is more kid-friendly than the old Hanahan library."
Hanahan residents will finally get a new branch library Sunday, providing the area with more than 20,000 books and other resources.
"It's been many, many years," said Donna Osborne Worden, director of the Berkeley County Library System, of the wait for the Hanahan facility.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis agreed.
"A new library in Hanahan has been needed for a long time," he said. "The library has been located in less-than-ideal, not easily accessible locations."
The branch has previously been housed in rented spaces in strip shopping centers throughout the city.
"There has been a real grassroots effort to get one there, and now it has a permanent location that's a gorgeous facility," Davis said.
The new 6,700-square-foot facility replaces the old branch in Yeamans Hall Plaza on Yeamans Hall Road, which closed in March in preparation for the move. It's on a triangle-shaped lot bounded by Highland Park Road, Murray Drive and Old Murray Court that was created when Murray Drive was realigned.
The site is close to Hanahan's public and private schools, so Worden said she expects a large after-school crowd. It also is near the local branch of SC Works, a state agency that pairs job seekers and employers, and plans are to work closely with them to provide assistance on creating resumes, searching for jobs and career building, Worden said.
The building has community meeting space, study rooms, a children's reading garden, plenty of parking, computers and laptops for public use, Wi-Fi access and expanded programs for everyone from toddlers to adults, Worden said.
"We couldn't do that at the other facility because we just didn't have the space," she said. "It was just tiny and we didn't have a separate area to do programs, but the way this building is laid out feels so much roomier. We are not that much larger than Sangaree or Daniel Island libraries, but when you walk into this building it feels larger. To me it has a very comfortable, welcoming, inviting feel."
The new facility has an expanded collection of 20,522 books, audio books, DVDs and music CDs, Worden said. Other new services available county-wide are Universal Class, which allows anyone with a library card access to more than 500 continuing education classes online, and a digital magazine service.
"We invested at least another $10,000 enhancing the collection, and I would say two-thirds of that went into the teen and children's collections," Worden said.
Funding for the facility came from Berkeley County government's Capital Improvement fund.
"We are very excited about the addition of a new and modern library in the city of Hanahan," said Mayor Minnie Newman-Caldwell.
Berkeley isn't the only local county trying to improve its libraries. Charleston County voters will decide in November if they want to raise taxes to pay for a $103 million library building and renovation program.
The Hanahan library is the first new branch to open in Berkeley County since the Sangaree and Daniel Island branches opened in 2007, Worden said.
In the upper part of the county, a library is under construction in a wing of the former St. Stephen Elementary School, which was built in the 1930s. At the corner of U.S. Highway 52 and State Road 45, the facility will open in the fall. It will replace a 2,000-square-foot space and its six parking spaces that are shared by staff and visitors. The new site is more than 5,000 square feet and has plenty of parking.
The new facilities come at a time when many people are turning more toward technology for access to reading material, but the library has not had a decline in visitors, Worden said.
"We are seeing more people than ever," she said. "Our digital collection is very well used. Each month the number of books downloaded grows, but we are not seeing a decrease in our foot traffic or in our print circulation, which is interesting."
That is in keeping with a March study by the Pew Research Center that found more than two-thirds of Americans are engaged with public libraries and people who have extensive "economic, social, technological, and cultural resources" are also more likely to use and value libraries.
The study also found that technology users are generally library users, with the "most plugged-in and highest-income respondents" also "highly engaged with public libraries and the most avid supporters of the idea that libraries make communities better."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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