By Susan Dickson
CARRBORO â€“ Discussion grew heated Tuesday night between members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library as the groups squared off on criteria for siting a library in Carrboro.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners have asked the board of aldermen to review criteria for siting a southwest Orange County library in Carrboro. Carrboro has a county library within the McDougle School, but community members have long advocated for a freestanding library, citing concerns with the visibility of the library and limited hours of operation.
Members of the board of aldermen have said their top priorities for a library site are accessibility via public transit, walkability and bikeability, and that they would like to solicit community input earlier in the process than proposed by the county.
The countyâ€™s proposed criteria stipulate that proposed library sites go through three phases of screening to ensure selection of the best possible site. Phase one considers visibility, long-term functionality and accessibility; phase two, centrality/direct benefits, site conditions/sustainability and reasonable cost; and phase three, critique of the site by stakeholders, lease vs. purchase and the possibility of partnerships.
Alex Brown, president of the Friends, said that too many changes to the countyâ€™s proposed criteria could be seen as obstructive to the process and urged the board to move quickly.
â€œThis will be a county project paid for by county taxpayers, but you will have plenty of input,â€ she said. â€œIf you want the county to build a library in Carrboro, please, tell them youâ€™re fine with their criteria.â€
Mayor Mark Chilton said he strongly disagreed with what the Friends said, adding that he felt that Carrboroâ€™s input was critical.
â€œI think it would be a huge mistake for our library to be built in some suburban location where it is only accessible to people having motor vehicles or who have the privilege of living nearby,â€ he said, adding that the library should be located â€œwhere it is accessible to as many families living in poverty as possible.â€
â€œIâ€™d really rather that they not spend $5 million at all than that they spend the money â€¦ and make the lives of some wealthy, predominantly white people in a suburban area more convenient,â€ he continued.
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody on the Friends â€¦ is talking about a suburban library site where no one can get to it,â€ said Friends member and former alderman Joal Hall Broun. â€œI think what theyâ€™re saying â€¦ is that you need to be realisticâ€ about what the county will spend on a parcel of land.
The board will revisit the criteria at their meeting on March 6.