Charleston County residents have made clear through surveys that they love their libraries.
Library meeting schedule
Monday: 6 p.m., E.B. Ellington Elementary School, 5540 Old Jacksonboro Road, Ravenel
Tuesday: 6 p.m., Auditorium, Main Library, 68 Calhoun St.
Wednesday: 6 p.m., Dorchester Road Regional Library, 6325 Dorchester Road, North Charleston
Thursday: 6 p.m., John's Island Regional Library, 3531 Maybank Hwy., Johns Island
*April 6: 4 p.m., James Island Branch, 1248 Camp Road, James Island
April 7: 6 p.m., Otranto Road Regional Library, 2261 Otranto Road, North Charleston
April 9: 6 p.m., St. Andrews Regional Library, 1735 N. Woodmere Dr.
April 10: 6 p.m., Mount Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road, Mount Pleasant
*April 13: 2 p.m., West Ashley Branch, 45 Windermere Blvd.
April 21: 6 p.m., Dunes West Golf Club, 3535 Wando Plantation Way, Mount Pleasant
* Branch open for community meeting only.
To learn more about the construction and renovation plan, view a map and see a breakdown of the estimated costs, visit the library's web site at www.ccpl.org. Residents unable to attend a meeting can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But that love will be put to the test in November, when they vote on a $103 million referendum to improve them.
Janet Segal, chairwoman of the Charleston County Public Library's Board of Trustees, said the library has scheduled 10 public information sessions on how it would use the money if the referendum is approved. The sessions begin Monday and run through April 21.
At those meetings, the library will make a presentation on plans to renovate existing libraries and build new ones. It also will answer residents' questions.
The library will use feedback it receives at those meetings and online to tweak the building and renovation plans. It also will present what it hears to Charleston County Council, which must approve the referendum ballot question.
Under the plan, all buildings would get technology upgrades, a new library would be built in the northern part of Mount Pleasant, and four libraries would be torn down and rebuilt. Buildings that would be torn down are the Cooper River Memorial branch in North Charleston, and the James Island, St. Paul's/Hollywood and West Ashley branches. The work would be completed over the next five years.
"Everybody would get something," Segal said. She also said county voters last approved a referendum for new library facilities in 1986.
Since that referendum, the county's population has grown 27 percent and the library's circulation soared 289 percent. Current circulation is nearly 3.4 million items annually. Additionally, the library offered nearly 6,000 free programs, classes, exhibits, concerts and similar programs last year, attracting more than 166,000 residents.
North Charleston resident Lorri Smalls was working on a computer at the West Ashley branch last week. Smalls, a writer, said she uses the computers a lot. Libraries have time limits on how long people can use a computer, she said. So she sometimes has to go to more than one library in a day to get her work done.
She would like the libraries to have more computers so people can use them for longer periods of time, she said. And it would be great if they had a separate room for computers, so users aren't distracted by other people using the library. "You have people who play games and people who do work," she said.
Segal said the buildings desperately need technology upgrades. But people also want more books, DVDs, areas for teens and meeting space. The new and upgraded buildings, "will provide a nice marriage of both."
Library officials say the plan would cost an owner of a $100,000 home about $12 per year for the next 20 years.
The referendum might be a tough sell for some county residents.
A.P. Bayless, who was reading a newspaper at the West Ashley branch last week, wasn't thrilled to learn his branch would be closed if the referendum passes, and replaced by a larger, regional branch on Folly Road that would serve West Ashley and James Island residents.
He lives a quarter of a mile from the West Ashley branch, he said. "I'm really not interested in traveling much farther."
He comes to the library only to read the newspaper and check out books. He's not interested in computers or technology. He likes his library the way it is, he said, and he's not looking forward to change. "I can tolerate it, but I'd just as soon not."
But Segal thinks most residents want better libraries and are willing to support the improvements. About 80 percent of county residents have an active library card, she said, which is well above the national average of about 55 percent.
The referendum amount sounds like a lot, she said. "But we're talking about 17 buildings."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
Bill Petty works on one of the computers Tuesday at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library. “It’s slow,” said Petty, who uses the computers nearly every day. “We have access, we have to be grateful for that.”×