New library is alluring in design

August 16, 1994|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Walking down the banks of the river under the shade of trees, a child looks in the distance and sees the crashing waves of the ocean. The serene motif is juxtaposed with the image of a smiling librarian beckoning to the child.

The children's annex of the East Columbia Branch Library -- with a winding river-like design on its carpet, life-like trees and neon lights shaped like ocean waves on the wall above the information desk -- is just one portion of the long-awaited facility that county officials say is a showpiece for the county library system.

The new brick and glass 46,000-square-foot building in the Owen Brown Village is almost ready for its public unveiling on Monday. It sits on 25 acres on a hill surrounded by soccer fields and a few hundred parking spaces on Cradlerock Way.

"We expect it to be very, very busy," said Marvin Thomas, county libraries director. "There's a need for a library on the eastern side of the county."

Someone apparently didn't appreciate that need this summer when the library became a target for rock-throwing and graffiti.

Earlier this month, vandals shot a number of the building's huge glass panes with a BB gun. Some windows are still boarded up, others are cracked. All told, the vandals have caused about $10,000 in damage, Mr. Thomas said.

Jim Byrnes, the branch manager, said he hopes the vandalism will stop when the library opens to the public.

"Public buildings are always a target for those kind of things," he said. "The police have taken a real pro-active approach. They have canvassed the neighborhood looking for information."

No arrests have been made in the incidents.

Nonetheless, Mr. Thomas said the $8.2 million building should become a community gathering place almost immediately.

"Central Library [in Town Center near Symphony Woods] became inundated. We could not provide meaningful service," he said. "One person would be in line and there will be 30 people behind that one person. With the new library, there will be 15 people behind that person now."

Regardless of the building's alluring design -- with its glass-encased study rooms and its walls of glass framed in bright red, yellow and blue that flood the interior with natural light -- the idea was to create a building that would be fully functional as a library and resource center.

Besides housing some of the administrative offices currently at the Central and Miller branch libraries, the East Columbia branch will specialize in electronic resources and children's programming, said Mr. Byrnes.

"I think we will be very busy. I think the community has waited a long time for this," he said.

Mr. Thomas characterized the heavy usage of the county's library as "just a desire and need for information."

Mr. Byrnes agreed. "This is a well-educated community that has a higher expectation of the library," he said.

The library will also feature a drive-in where patrons can drop off their books and pick up items on reserve, he said.

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