Aiken has grown significantly over the years, changing from just another typical small Southern town, to a unique and exciting place that seems to be growing by the day.

However, in the midst of all this growth, one nonprofit continues to stand strong, being a go-to place for many residents – the Aiken County Public Library.

Library manager Jessica Christian said the library first opened in Aiken in 1880, but it began as a "subscription library," meaning it was not free and residents had to pay to use it.

This all changed in 1926, when the library first became open to the public, Christian said.

The library, which is now an Aiken staple, is part of the ABBE Regional Library System composed of libraries from a four-county region: Aiken County, Bamberg County, Barnwell County and Edgefield County.

The system exists to provide materials which communicate experience and ideas from one person to another. Its goal is "to assemble, organize, preserve and make easily and freely available to all the residents of its service area the print and non-print materials that will assist them in their pursuit of education, information, research, culture and lifelong learning," according to the ABBE website.

"If you were to ask what it is the library here in Aiken does, well, the simple answer is – we provide information to the citizens of Aiken County," Christian said. "And since the Aiken County library is part of the four-county system, if you have a card, it can be used at either of the four libraries."

A person must be eligible in order to get a library card, meaning they must own property, go to school or work in Aiken.

"Once a person has their card, they are free to check out books, which is what people think of when they think of a library, but we also have audio books, DVDs, learning kits, 33 public computers with internet access and much more," she said.

The library is also a good option for residents looking to beat the summer heat.

"If you're looking for something to do this summer, come visit us here at the library," Christian explained. "We have air conditioning to cool people off after an afternoon out in the sun and so many things to fill your time. Many things you may have not even known the library had."

The Aiken County Public Library also offers several free clinics throughout the year from other local nonprofits or groups wanting to use the library space. This includes many specialized events for children.

The library's website offers a complete list of events for different age groups, from toddlers to retires.

Some of the events include showings of movies like "The Force Awakens" for kids and "First Man" for older teens and adults, to the library hosting meeting space for local programs Partners in Friendship and the Off the Hook Crochet Group.

The Aiken branch library also has a playground located on its campus. 

The library is located at 314 Chesterfield St. in downtown Aiken.

Tripp Girardeau is the crime and courts reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter at @trippgirardeau.