Lincoln County Library’s Board of Trustees is asking county commissioners for their help in upgrading the library facility and services offered in western Lincoln County.
At the commissioners’ May 19 meeting, Lincoln County Library Board of Trustees chair Rebecca Powell gave a presentation regarding the request.
“There’s been a lot of things that have come up during these sessions, and we figured it was time to come report to you guys and tell you a little bit about the library’s needs,” Powell said. “All of (the branches) have needs, and we’ve tried to prioritize those needs. We feel like at this point, West Lincoln Library is the one with the greatest needs.”
She began her presentation by giving commissioners a timeline of the West Lincoln Library’s history. According to Powell, county commissioners proposed a West Lincoln branch in March of 2000, putting together a committee to survey public opinion. The committee came back in January of 2001 and presented a proposal to put the West Lincoln branch where it currently sits, in the West Lincoln Strip Mall on Highway 27 West. The 2,500 square-foot library officially opened on May 5, 2002.
“In the summer of 2011, we were hit with the Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library split,” Powell said. “At that time, we talked about the split and whether we wanted to do it or not, and it became very clear that we did. Our primary concerns during those meetings were that we wanted to make sure that if we split that we would maintain our service hours at all of the libraries, that we would continuously work to expand our book collection and there was a big concern at that point that the West Lincoln branch might be closed because with the Gaston-Lincoln Regional, they were already talking about closing or severely cutting back the service hours of some of the branches. Gaston County has indeed cut back their service hours, and we felt very strongly that the West Lincoln branch would be very susceptible to that.”
While the library branch has been able to stay open, maintaining its regular operating schedule of 45 hours per week, the Board of Trustees feels the patrons of that branch are unable to enjoy the opportunities offered at the Jonas and Shanklin libraries due to space issues.
Last fall, the Library’s Board of Trustees held a series of public forums throughout the county. According to Powell, the West Lincoln forum was the most attended.
“They want to see a new library,” she said. “At that time, they were concerned about slow internet. I think that we’ve addressed that. We now have two connections — one for staff and one for library patrons. There’s a very big lack of space there, and because of that lack of space, there’s a limited book selection that we have available.”
Over the past four years, Powell said the board has worked to combat the library branch’s space limitations by providing digital resources, such as the North Carolina Digital Library, which offers 25,000 audio and e-books for visitors. Other improvements include One Click Digital, NC Live and Tumblebooks.
While the West Lincoln Library has benefited from its expansion in literature and resources, it still faces challenges as a small facility. Powell said the branch currently needs space for tutoring, community meetings, group meetings, children’s programming, technology training, family nights, teen nights, student group projects, summer reading programs, additional space for book collections, computers, dedicated children’s computers and storage.
“There’s just no space,” Powell said. “I went to a story time a couple weeks ago and took my grandchildren. She had about 17 or 18 kids. In order for her to do story time that day, she had to practically rearrange the whole library — move out tables, chairs, a few bookshelves…there’s nowhere that we can hold community meetings. There’s space at Shanklin and at Franklin, but not at West Lincoln. If we tried to hold a meeting, we could probably have a maximum of 10 folks.
“I mean, if you take 2,500 square feet, and you take into consideration all the shelves, the books, the magazines, a couple computers — there’s just no floor space,” she said. “So any kind of program they do, the staff has to start moving anything they can to make room.”
Powell said that in the future, the board hopes to be able to start a Friends of the Library group for the West Lincoln Library as well as offer laptops to expand computer availability, implement their Community Organizations website and ultimately offer the West Lincoln patrons a new library. She added that the commissioners could not simply analyze the branch’s need for improvements solely on user statistics.
“If you just stop and look at the door count, it’s not going to tell you the true picture,” Powell said. “If you look at the door count, it’s going to be low. But that’s because the folks up in that end of the county have already figured out that there’s typically not enough room for everyone to come. So, they pick and choose when they come or don’t come. We’d like to get back to where we could put flyers out at the schools to get the kids involved in reading. And that’s the number one thing — that kids need to be reading.”
Powell concluded her presentation by stating that she, along with the other board members, knew that the library’s request would be a long-term endeavor.
“I know there’s no money now; everybody knows that,” Powell said. “But, this is not something that’s going to happen tomorrow. It may not even happen next year. But we’d like to get it on your radar to where you can start looking into the possibility of building a new library in the future.”
County Commissioner Cecelia Martin agreed with Powell’s concerns, and said that an expansion has long been overdue.
“I think that was a great presentation,” Martin said. “And there is a need for a larger library facility for the western end of the county. I’ve known that for a long time.”