Aiken County Public Library’s first floor reopens to public as major renovation nears completion

Even though the multimillion-dollar renovation of the Aiken County Public Library isn’t quite finished, the soft reopening of the information and media center’s first floor was held Monday.

Aiken resident David Spikes, a retiree who visits the library once a week, was impressed by what he saw.

“It looks like the wait has been worth it,” he said. “It’s much roomier and brighter, and more open and welcoming. It seems to be well laid out and well organized.”

Another fan of the makeover was Hillary Kourliouros, who grew up in Aiken and recently moved back to this area.

“It’s great. I like it,” she said.

Bobby Mason, who lives near Ridge Spring, also was enthusiastic.

“You can find DVDs and stuff better,” he said. “They’ve got everything in order. You don’t have to walk all over the place to look for stuff. It’s wonderful. The floors are beautiful.”

A public-private partnership between Aiken County and the Friends of the Aiken County Public Library is paying for the refurbishment.

Aiken County agreed to provide $2 for every $1 the Friends of the Library contributed.

So far, the total cost is approximately $3 million.

Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System, described the collaboration as “one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the history of Aiken.”

Friends of the Library President Bill Reynolds said 99.4% of the renovation has been completed.

“I think by mid-February it will be 99.9%,” Dawson added.

The library’s second floor reopened to the public last July after being modernized.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

In January 2020, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the refurbishment.

During that phase, the library’s steep front steps were demolished and replaced.

Dawson, accompanied by Reynolds, gave a short tour Monday afternoon of the library’s first floor, where there is a new circulation lounge.

“It’s probably going to be one of the most highly visited spots in the library,” Dawson said. “It’s where people can come in and browse the new books, and they also can pick up their reserved books there.”

In addition, visitors can see the gently used books that are available to purchase.

Located near the lounge area is a new self-checkout station.

“We have our very capable staff waiting to assist,” Dawson said. “Their service desk is adjacent to the lounge.”

In addition, the first floor has new furniture, new shelving, new technology, a new room for teenagers and more.

A new elevator is now operational.

Vending machines will be installed soon on the first floor in an area that has a “Starbucks-like environment,” Dawson said.

McMillan Pazdan Smith is the architect for the project. J.E. Stewart Builders Inc. is the contractor.

The library is at 314 Chesterfield Street South.

The information and media center is located in one of the two wings of a brick building. The construction of the first wing was completed in 1891, and the second was added in 1913.