Charleston County seeking 2 more library sites

The Charleston County Public Library System will be spending $103 million on library facilities over the next six years, including closing and replacing the Cooper River Library in North Charleston, one of the systems’ oldest.

Locations for new libraries in Mount Pleasant, Hollywood and North Charleston have been nailed down as officials search for suitable book repository land on James Island and in West Ashley.

“We have the first three sites locked in,” said Jamie Thomas, spokeswoman for the county library system.

Charleston County Council on Tuesday also will weigh three possible locations for the new James Island library. They are the former Baxter Patrick Elementary School on South Grimball Road; an empty building next to Bi-Lo off Folly Road; and school district property at Fort Johnson Middle School, county spokesman Shawn Smetana said.

In West Ashley, the county is looking into a library site near Glenn McConnell Parkway and Bees Ferry Road, he said.

The new facilities are possible because voters in November approved spending $108 million to upgrade the system.

The already-decided sites include the Carolina Park subdivision in Mount Pleasant, the Town of Hollywood on property near the existing library there and on Pinehaven Drive where the Sheriff’s Office was located in North Charleston, Thomas said.

The county will hire a firm to handle architectural services for the project as well as seeking proposals from companies to stock the new libraries.

Carolina Park in northern Mount Pleasant will be home to a new 40,000-square-foot library while the Pinehaven and Hollywood facilities will be 15,000 square feet each.

New 20,000-square-foot libraries are planned west of the Ashley and on James Island.

In November, voters approved building five new libraries and renovating 13 others, including major technology and building upgrades.

Since then, the focus has been on finding land for the new buildings and developing bid-type documents to go out in the spring to hire architects.

When those tasks are completed, the library system plans to hold a series of public meetings to find out what key services are most important to residents in the different areas of the county.

As part of the planned improvements, support staff will be relocated from the Main Library to free up space for public use, and the library’s technology will be upgraded to include self-checkout kiosks, more public computers and the latest equipment in meeting rooms.

The new libraries and upgrades are expected to take six years to complete. The improvements will mean $11.20 annually on the tax bill for households with a $100,000 owner-occupied home. Operating costs will be phased in and be approximately $6.80 annually on the tax bill in 2019-2020.

The library-improvement plan was developed after a detailed assessment of the existing facilities, a review of population-growth patterns, and a study of changing technologies and library service trends.

Community meetings, surveys, focus groups and interviews were done to determine public needs.

An independent consultant helped the library develop a strategic plan and identify shortcomings that needed attention.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711