Lately, I've been feeling a bit like Kevin Costner in that 1980s classic film, Field of Dreams. "If you build it, he will come." That's the actual line from the movie, but the line is most often quoted as "build it, and they will come."

That's how it has been with this new addition to the Madison County Public Library's Richmond location. We had our Grand Opening a little over a month ago, and we have already had 153 meetings and activities held in our new spaces. That doesn't even include regular library programming.

Just in the month of September, we've had 17,850 visitors to the Richmond location, which is 5,000 more than last September.

The community response to the new space at the library has been nothing short of amazing, and I am so grateful for the support, the use, and the positive feedback we have been receiving.

I am also thrilled at the sheer variety of activities and meetings and groups in the new spaces. Of the 153 uses of the new rooms, 41 were for educational purposes and 23 were job/employment-related. That right there thrills me. The public library, at its core, is a about learning, after all.

It might surprise you to learn there were 20 religious groups and activities in that time, 15 civic groups, and 10 political activities. The remaining categories -- social and the catch-all "other" -- accounted for 44 uses.

From Eagle Scouts and parents of Madison Central's freshmen basketball team, to the Kiwanis Club, Madison County Historical Society, Lions Club, and the Madison County Retired Teachers, the groups using the rooms represent a diverse cross-section of our community.

When people call about the space, one of their first questions is typically, "How much does it cost?" The answer frequently surprises them. For events during our regular hours that meet our criteria, there is no additional cost for using the spaces. I say, "additional," because the building and the rooms in it have already been paid for by you through your property taxes.

We can't accommodate private parties like birthdays, weddings, family reunions and the like. And we don't allow activities based on sales and/or charging admission. And activities can't impede the designated functioning of the library or alter the spaces in any way that extends beyond the reserved time frame.

This month, we are wrapping up the installation of our audio-visual capabilities, and it is looking pretty amazing. Our two large community rooms, which can accommodate about 375 and 450 people, respectively, each have three screens and projectors and a high-quality integrated sound system for presentations. The three smaller meeting rooms also have AV capacity through large-screen monitors and built-in sound systems.

With easily moveable tables and chairs, the rooms can quickly be configured to whatever type of set-up is required. Four of the five rooms have some type of kitchen functionality, with a sink and counter space if people want to serve coffee and cookies, for example.

One of the upcoming activities I know folks will be happy to see returning to the Richmond location is the Friends of the Library Book Sale. For the past year because of the disruption of the construction project, the Friends have been holding book sales only at our Berea location.

So this fall's sale will be in Richmond only, and it will be massive. As you might imagine, the Friends have a lot of books ready to go. The Friends Fall Book Sale is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2-3, during regular library hours. The ever-popular Bag Sale is on Sunday, and believe me, there are bargains to be had!

I hope you get a chance to check out our new spaces sometime soon. Our "old" spaces are still beautiful, too! I'll see you soon at the library!

Ruthie Maslin is the Madison County Public Library Director.

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