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Town wants library to stay

By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

With the Orange County Board of Commissioners set to open public hearings on a budget that calls for the closing of the Carrboro Branch Library at McDougle School, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen is joining with library supporters to officially oppose the move.

The aldermen met Monday night at Town Hall to discuss the closing of the library and worked on a draft of a letter to be sent to the county outlining their opposition to the closing.

In an interview Wednesday, Mayor Mark Chilton said he hopes strong community and town support will underline the importance of the library to the town.

The letter from Chilton to county commission Chair Valerie Foushee reads in part:
“We are aware that some cuts in service will be necessary in virtually every department, but the wholesale closure of libraries is too drastic and will take a needless financial and emotional toll on the well-being of our community.”

Chilton also makes the case that the library’s computers are used by residents in job searches and that many of the people affected will be those who can least afford to travel out of the community to another library. He also notes that the town has contributed $4,000 annually to help cover the cost of the facility.

County officials say they want to close the McDougle library and a branch library at Cedar Grove and shift employees to a new main library in downtown Hillsborough.

Library director Lucinda Munger explained to county commissioners at a budget work session last week that while closing the library in Carrboro will save about $37,000 in annual expenses, a much bigger impact comes from not having to create new positions in the library system. By closing the branches and shifting positions, the county will avoid about $250,000 in new personnel costs.

On Tuesday evening, county commissioners heard from several supporters of the libraries, including some who are worried about what will happen to the tens of thousands of books built up in the collection through purchases, grants and gifts.

“I consider this to be a theft of resources from Carrboro,” Anna Mercer McClean told the board.

Gerry Christmas said the library was very important to his family when they first moved to town and could not afford a new computer.

“We must hold on and fight for our little library and our little arts center,” he said. “Both are only little in size.”

Allison Rosen said she was worried about the dwindling number of public spaces. The library, she said, is a place that “transcends class.”

The first public hearing on the budget is scheduled for tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Central Orange Senior Center next to the Sportsplex on Meadowlands Drive in Hillsborough.

A public hearing at the Southern Human Services Center in Chapel Hill is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26 at 7 p.m.

The proposed budget is available on the county’s website at co.orange.nc.us/budget/index.asp

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