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'We lost revenue': Richland Library plans to address shortfall with COVID-19 aid

Richland County Council has approved $400,000 in funds for Richland Library as a part of the American Rescue Plan Relief Act.

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — As Executive Director of Richland Library, Melanie Huggins explains, the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy for business.

"We lost revenue. We weren't seeing our customers. We weren't getting fines and fees from prints and other things that we charge for. But, we also had increased costs. We expanded our digital offerings for the customers since they weren't able to come in."

Higgins says that the library had to adapt their services, moving a vast majority to online platforms, resulting in a lot of purchases.

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"We expanded our digital offerings for our customers, because they weren’t able to come in. We had some HR and finance functions that we needed to do differently and remotely so that was digital software."

The library was able to keep its doors open and users still flowed in and out of the building this afternoon, but according to Huggins, its facing an over $1 million shortfall.

The library offers numerous services completely free of charge for users. These include rental assistance, small business counseling, employment help and more. These services do come at a cost for the library, however.

"Libraries are in the business of making their communities resilient, and we do that in multiple ways. And you don't see that needed any more than in a time of crisis like the pandemic. We're very fortunate that we're well supported."

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Last week, Richland County Council approved a $400,000 distribution that is part of the American Rescue Plan funds. Huggins is hopeful the money will help keep those free programs available and go towards the shortfall facing the Library.

Galashia Dew is a Columbia native and has been going to the library since she was a child. Now, as a mother, she brings her daughter for reading classes.

"You can come to the library, do your own research or you can get your kids to read more than they do at school or at home," Dew said. "They can pick out their own book, read. They have a children’s section for the kids where they can go."

Dew says she was happy to hear about the funding and thinks it can be used on services like rental assistance and expanding the number of computers.

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