FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Fort Benning held the grand opening of the Milton E. Long Library at its location at Eckel Avenue Aug. 14, celebrating the opening with food and refreshments, balloon and magic shows for the children, tours of the library, and more.

The building, formerly the post's Morale, Welfare and Recreation headquarters at Fort Benning and previously known as Long Hall, was damaged from an electrical fire in 2014. After four years and $4 million in renovations, the building became the site of the new library, which is double the floor area of the previous library.

This expansion of area is one of the library's best features, according to Joan Auwen, supervisory librarian of Long Library.

"We didn't have space in the other library to do programs," said Auwen. "We have a program room upstairs, and the Family movie night. We can show movies - we have a full screen. And we have already done training. We had (Child and Youth Services) spend four weeks doing training in our program rooms. It is open to the community for trainings, for all kinds of good stuff."

The library plays host to several monthly reading programs, including an American Girls book club the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m., a lunch and learn session the second Wednesday of each month from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a superhero book club the third Wednesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m., and a book-to-movie club the third Saturday of each month at 1 p.m.

In addition to the program rooms, there are also reading rooms, which Auwen says easily double as collaboration spaces for small study groups. There is also a conference room with smart televisions that library patrons may hook their devices into for presentations and other larger display collaborations.

The library had opened earlier in the summer for the summer reading program, but the library delayed the opening until the children on post were back in school and Families had returned to work, according to Auwen. And even within the first hour of the grand opening, dozens of Families had arrived to enjoy the festivities, which included child-friendly magic and balloon acts.

And the library has a large section dedicated to children and their Families called Wonderland, which includes children's books, a play area, and computers for parents attending to their children.

"I love how the children's section has doors, because they can get super loud during story time," said Sarah Ostendorf, an Army Family member who brought two of her children with her to the grand opening. "We come at least twice a week. We come for story time for preschoolers, and then we come in the evenings for my son, who's in middle school, to kind of check out the library and do homework."

Sgt. Andrew Mullin, 14th Combat Support Hospital, arrived to the grand opening with his Family as well. His children are homeschool students, and the library has a section dedicated to homeschooling. Mullin commended the library for being budget friendly in general and budget friendly for homeschooling Families.

"Homeschooling books are pretty expensive, so being able to check them out instead of coming out of pocket is a benefit," said Mullin. "They (libraries) are just a good community resource. So a lot of our homeschool groups will meet and we'll be able to talk about different lesson plans and coordinate different activities."

One feature new to a Fort Benning library is the self-checkout station. Patrons scan their ID cards and check out books the radio frequency identification tracker.

Auwen also emphasized that the library is more than the 10,000 pieces of media (films, audiobooks, and more) and about 50,000 books and the building that houses them. She urged that patrons get signed up with the library to use its many online resources, which include full-length concerts and documentaries, academic search engine, full texts of military and government collections, career assistance, periodicals, genealogy databases, online ebooks and audiobooks and films, online tutoring, language learning programs and more.

"Getting a library card is so easy," said Auwen. "You just need your military ID and you can get a library account."

Long Library is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed federal holidays.

To learn more about the library, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.

The library is named after Milton E. Long, a Columbus, Georgia, resident and town clerk who earned the Distinguished Service Cross while serving with the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, American Expeditionary Force, at Cunel Heights, France, during World War I. According to his award citation, Long was wounded by machine gun fire but remained with his platoon to clear the woods of the enemy machine guns.

To see more photos from the grand opening event or pictures from the library, visit the "Related Links" section on this page.