They've got something new at the Charleston County Public Library that you simply must check out.
No, not a new Twilight book.
The 16-branch county library system is holding a series of meetings in the next few weeks to make the case for a $103 million bond referendum they want to put on the November ballot.
Now, some county officials are quietly concerned about this - that's a lot of zeroes, as a couple of them say. And it is.
But as you might expect, folks who spend all their time at the library have done their homework and they have the facts at their disposal.
For instance, they know that 75 percent of county residents have used the library in the past six months. And they know that 70 percent of county residents have library cards, which is a right smart more than the national average (55 percent).
They also have proof that Charleston County doesn't have nearly as much library resources as it needs.
Those are good arguments. But the question is: will folks actually vote themselves a tax increase to do something about it?
Need more computers
It's hard to believe South Carolina has any standards at all, but it does.
And Charleston is missing the mark.
The state says a county library system needs 1.25 square feet per resident to meet local needs, and between one and three computers for every 1,000 residents. Charleston County Public Libraries have about one-third the required space and a little less than one computer for every 1,000 county residents.
That's a problem, because these days as many people use the library for free internet as they do for checking out books. Despite what state officials say, there are still a lot of folks unemployed, and a lot of them rely on that free internet to search for jobs.
Frankly, the average age of their libraries is somewhere in the 40-year range. And back then there was no such thing as the internet, outside of Al Gore's brain.
The library has been studying its needs for a couple of years, along with the help of county staff and outside architects. They have come up with a plan to build four new branches, renovate 12 of the existing ones and build an administration building to expand space in the main branch downtown.
The plans could change, officials say, and if anything goes it may be the administration building. Some county councilmen say that sounds a tad too much like the school district building at 75 Calhoun - aka the Taj Mahal. And they get to approve the final wording of the ballot referendum. Plus the library board has to sign off on the final plan. And they want to know what the public thinks.
That's what these public hearings are for, to get input. And so far it's going well.
"They want to know how soon we can start," executive director Doug Henderson says. "They're excited."
All of this work would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about a $1 a month for the next 20 years, which is less than the fine you'd pay for a Stephen King book that was overdue that long.
The problem is, the library isn't the only group likely to be on the ballot this November looking for love.
A full slate
There has been talk that the Charleston County School District may ask voters to extend their sales tax for building projects this year.
Any parent can tell you they need it.
At the same time, there are rumblings that the county might ask for a half-cent sales tax for road projects. This may be a tough sell in an election year, but the talk is there and they do have a constituency for this.
Basically, anyone who has to drive Highway 17.
There are a lot of things Charleston County needs these days, seeing as how everyone they can't cram into Florida ends up here. And those things cost money.
So voters may see a lot of hands out on the November ballot, and then they'll have to make some hard choices.
Whether the library amends its plans or not, folks need to read up on this before they cast that ballot.
It's been 28 years since the last library referendum. So we're kind of overdue.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com
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