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Rock Hill library repairs pose dilemma

For Lyman Davis, the York County Library's main branch in Rock Hill is a "gold mine."

When he and his wife, Joycelyn, both 71, moved to Rock Hill several years ago, one of the first places they visited was the downtown library on Black Street.

Joycelyn takes a class at Winthrop University and uses the library as a place to read, study and look up information on health issues, while Lyman logs on to one of the computers.

"After I retired, I got into genealogy," he said. "I've found 118 people in my family in the Revolutionary War. I've been averaging two to three hours a day going through this."

"This" means the computers at the library, where he and his wife can trace back through generations of their family's history - Lyman Davis' "gold mine."

But beginning Sept. 2, the Davises will have to dig somewhere else.

The York County Library's main branch will close for three weeks as it undergoes major repairs and improvements, including a new roof. It will close Friday for the Labor Day weekend and remain closed through Sept. 25, executive director Colleen Kaphengst said. It will reopen at 9 a.m. Sept. 26.

"The library board and employees sincerely regret any inconvenience resulting from these closings," she said. "Please bear with us as we complete these very necessary repairs."

During the closing, Kaphengst said, library employees will take vacation or personal days or work to catch up on "a lot of behind-the-scenes work," such as weeding through books that have been damaged. Some might take unpaid time off, she said.

Several staff members will work on projects at other branches, and some might attend staff development opportunities at the State Library in Columbia.

While the library is closed, people can still reserve materials through the library's website - yclibrary.org - and pick them up at the library's Bookmobile, which will be parked in the city lot at the intersection of Dave Lyle Boulevard and White Street.

People can also return items to the Bookmobile, which will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Nothing checked out in Rock Hill will be due on the days the library is closed.

But the people who typically use the branch's computers will have to travel to one of the other four branches, in York, Fort Mill, Clover or Lake Wylie, for free access.

The Davises are considering going to the Fort Mill branch in Baxter Village, about 15 minutes from their home.

But regular patrons Antonio and Annette McMullen likely won't make the drive.

"We'll probably just go buy something from Barnes & Noble, something that will take time," Antonio McMullen, 40, said.

The two visit the library every two weeks. Antonio checks out the historical and biographical section, while Annette goes for a bit of everything.

"Our son is 11," Annette McMullen, 34, said. "He comes to do a lot of research and to play games."

A lot of people might not have Internet access at home, she said, and with school starting up, she hopes students will still be able to find the help they need.

Kaphengst is also hopeful that everything will go smoothly with the library's renovations and repairs.

In July, the York County Council approved about $470,000 worth of repairs and replacements for the 30-year-old building on East Black Street.

The new roof will cost about $200,000. Workers also will install a new boiler, estimated to cost about $95,000, new skylights, improvements to brickwork and sidewalks, a resurfaced parking lot and additional security features - including a security gate on the building's chilling tower and doors on exterior fire stairwells.

Over the past few years, the library has had to replace much of the building's infrastructure, including part of the HVAC system and the chilling tower and air handling units for air-conditioning. The elevator has been upgraded, and sidewalks and walkways have been repaired.

The repairs are needed because of the building's age, Kaphengst said. She said it was originally a "very well-built" building.

But after the building's superintendent reported minor leaks in the past year and an engineer found "stair-step cracks" in the 4-foot-high parapets, it was necessary to make more improvements.

"If we can reopen early, we will," she said. "But we didn't want to have a date to reopen, then have bad weather and not be able to open when we'd advertised.

"If we can open a day or two earlier we will, but it will depend on their progress and how many days they can't work because of weather."

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