Getting to a downtown library branch

I wanted to take advantage of this forum to submit an idea someone shared with me this past week. My friend noted the fact that people have recently been speaking out in favor of locating new libraries in both downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro. We came up with the suggestion that Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County should come together to build one library on or near the border shared by the two towns in the area of Rosemary Street.

This way, Chapel Hill would get the library close to downtown that has been desired and Carrboro would get the same. In theory this library could be funded from four entities if the fed chipped in. Compared to the current plan of two towns and two libraries, which proposes that Carrboro's library would be funded by Orange County and Chapel Hill's library would be funded by Chapel Hill, this would be a more efficient use of all of our tax dollars.

I am sure that my details are not entirely straight. Please correct me. This is my first time posting on a blog. Regardless, I wanted to throw this idea out there. If we chose the location well, for instance around Graham and Rosemary Streets, the library would not only be better funded and close to home for many more people, but it could also benefit our lower-income neighbors to have such a resource at their doorsteps.



Fiscal Efficiency! What an idea! And to have a library near the Robeson Pool, Greenbridge, WSM, Franklin Hotel, etc.

I've got my fingers crossed - but I'll keep breathing for now.

This brief CHPL history tells part of the story. Most libraries in NC are County facilities, just like most school systems. When Chapel Hill decided to go on its own and create a municipal library, it understood that it would have to carry a heavier financial burden, just as we do for our own school system. (I think there are still only nine municipal libraries in NC, but I haven't checked lately.)

What this means is that CHPL gets some funds from Orange County (neighborhood of $250K?) and the state, but the balance comes from our tax revenues ($1.766M) and grants, fines and other categories, for a total budget of $2,256,832.

Because of this fiscal relationship, all Orange County citizens and Chapel Hill citizens living in Durham County are free users; those from other counties get cards for an annual fee of $60.

I think as a practical matter, we don't have the money to build a "downtown" library that would meet our needs, nor does Orange County have the needed money either. Do Carrboro citizens want to kick in general revenue dollars? These questions would all have to be explored and while we delay the addition while doing it, construction costs continue to rise on a daily basis.

What's the right policy choice in this case?

Good question, Fred.
Is there a data base of user addresses that could be used also, maybe as supporting information, on how many card holders are from CH, Carrboro, and OC?
I do like the proposed location, as long as property values don't make it cost prohibitive. With it's proximity to the center bus route axis, and with Carolina North bringing a traffic crunch, this makes for an interesting locational concept.
I see it as one more reason to make downtown a desireable, car-free destination.

That up to date data is available. I remember registration data to be roughly 58% Chapel Hill, 39% Orange County other than Chapel Hill, and 3% out of County. The problem, of course, is that the funding is roughly 78% Chapel Hill, 11% County, and 11% other.

The right policy certainly comes from thinking in the most realistic context. I've heard many times now the 'daily cost increase' approach to pushing policy forward, and its beginning to ring hollow.

We could also ask that cost estimates include gas consumption and carbon emission impacts as well. I think these concerns are just as realistic as those you cite. Then there's the desire to bring more residents into town. So many reasons give the idea full consideration before throwing more $ into a poor site.

CH and Carrboro are working hard to create their urban commons - they should be encouraged to try a joint venture on such a crucial piece.

policy first or money?
policy usually means "you do it our way 'cause we say so".
money..."we take yours and spend it where we want to."
bottom line: this will set up a Carrboro/Chapel Hill rift.

This is not something I would support, for several reasons.

First, Chapel Hill needs to expand its main library, and its
limited money should go there, not be diluted by another
branch, whether in downtown CH or near the CH-Carrboro

Second, we need to recognize that the county has woefully
inadequately funded the CH public library. Because the CHPL has
been so good, and because the CHPL is full of school kids
doing homework assignments, the schools have not built
good in-school libraries. Every year the CH library board
appeals for more dollars to the county commissioners,
arguing among other things, that if it weren't for the CHPL,
the county would have to spend lots more money on
in-school libraries. Since necessity is the mother of
invention and since the commissioners don't see CH
turning away from tax funding of the CHPL, there is little
necessity, so the commissioners provide some inadequate
amount of funding for the CHPL.

To drive this point home, a few years ago, I attended
an evening meeting of elected officials on some subject
that was held in the library of Phillips Middle School.
A number of us wondered why this library was closed, and
thus available for our meeting. The answer was that
all the school kids were 500 yards down Estes at the CHPL.

Joe--are you implying that the county makes school library funding decisions--for schools in Carrboro and Orange County--based on Chapel Hill local funding decisions?

Not by design, but that is the result. Because the CHPL is
so good and because it caters to school kids, the county
commissioners don't have to spend as much money on school
libraries for the CH-C district. I don't know anything about
county funding decisions for the Orange County school libraries.

Joe is probably correct, not merely implying, that the County Commissioners don't see an urgent need for more library in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. CHPL serves both towns more than adequately, except for its decidedly car-centric location.
Might as well drive there from Carrboro as from Southern Village or Meadowmont ...!

But as a resident of downtown Carrboro and an active Friend of the Carrboro Branch Library (equally car-centric and bursting at the seams) I find myself wishing for the impossible.

Joe remembers when we Library Trustees would come before the CH Town Council year after year and ask permission to take our message to the OC Commissioners to ask for more library support dollars. The message was simple: Chapel Hill Township residents were receiving from the County Commissioners less than $4 per capita for libraries and other County residents were receiving some $14 per capita. Therefore, Chapel Hill taxpayers were overly subsidizing non-Chapel Hill users.

I was also on the County Library Task Force that looked at better ways to serve Carrboro and other County communities that were underserved. Clearly, with 49% of the County budget going to schools, it's hard to shake loose dollars for more libraries when there are so many other worthy and competing demands.

This is why I don't think funding will come from the County to do as proposed above. The CHPL tries to meet the desires of the community as best it can, but like so many other endeavors around here, there isn't the money to do everything people want.

I think the last survey that I saw indicated that 88% of users came to the Library by car. Just for the sake of argument, how much lower would that number be if the Library were in the downtown? (Remember the complaints about not being able to easily use the old downtown library is what helped to get it sited in Pritchard Park.)

Well, if you move the library back downtown...I can guarantee that I will be driving to it. As of now, I can walk...assuming my book pile isn't too big. The idea of toting 15-20 lbs of books up that hill is...daunting.

My guess is that most people will still choose to drive to the library. For a number of reasons...

1) Not that many people actually LIVE downtown. Yes, the new high-end condos mean that more people are living downtown...but how many of them patronize the library? And, per square mile, is the concentration of folk actually larger than in the neighborhoods surrounding the current library? I'd like to see an analysis of current users home addresses...I bet many of them are going to have to drive whether the library is on Estes or downtown.

2) Even when people actually live within walking distance of the many do? As I've mentioned...books are heavy.

3) Moms with small kids are going to drive. Trust me on this one.

I, for one, don't want to go back to the days of circling the block/lot waiting for a space to open up. Did that back in the day at the original downtown CHL...don't want to do it again.

It would be nice if there was some library space down town. I'm up there most weekdays and taking a bus way down Franklin takes better then an hour round trip. I can't do car centric becouse I don't have a car. A satalite branch could be done on the cheep. It wouldn't need books. Books would be ordered like netflix. A shuttle could bring books twice a day; and send back returns. There would be a few internet termnals. Maybe a few news papers and other periodicals. I'm likely unrealistc here. So what? If I'm wrong after a year or two shut it down. It's a cheep plan; there's not much to lose.
Then again,I am being unrealistic. There is a library down town. Several in fact. Davis, Undergrad, Health Science, Etc. Anyone who isn't a pest can wonder in, ask for the most recent issue of "Rolling Stone" and look agast at the state of present culture. I'm more into Harpers and Atlantic. I'm a little privliged here. As a prep cook for Armark ( Carolina dining sirvice) I get to have a one card. I suspect I have some barrowing privliges. I'll look into that and get back. I did get student price on my Robert Randoph ticket. Good show that.
I digress and brag. This thread isn't about Robert Randoph and not everyone has the fortune to be an Armark prep cook. I'd be shocked if UNC didn't have a program to let state residents take home books. Like I said, I'll look into that and get back. UNC and CHPL do have differant goals. There is an overlap. If you doubt me, go to the undergrad and ask to see an issue of "GQ"

Clark--UNC offers residents library borrowing privileges.

"Non-affiliated users have several options for borrowing materials. North Carolina residents may apply for a borrower's card at Davis Library, the Health Sciences Library, and the Law Library. The cost of the card is $25, with a $5 fee for replacing lost cards. The fee is waived for members of the General Alumni Association and Friends of the Library."

Jamie, I think your idea is a splendid one! A must-do action item for both town councils in this term!

I have always thought that the western part of town was not well served by the car-centric current library. The idea of setting up a branch library in the Northside is stupendous! And to make it a joint venture as well since Carrboro has its own library problem of a car-centric one too out on its fringes.

And all you folks who see difficulties of operation with this, let's just say they can be resolved. It is not time to argue the details. How can we get the ball rolling on this... rolling into town halls, that is?

Glad to find out about the Greenspace. It's essentially a residential site, though.

Seems similar to the current CH library's site in terms of being too far from the major bus routes and other downtown attractions.

The original idea was for a joint facility near the border between the towns. For that idea to work it would have to justify dealing with the dilution of resources that Joe C mentioned, and the limited parking that concerns Melanie See.

It would have to be sited right on a corridor already used by several major bus routes to invite casual pedestrians by the thousands - making it attractive to moms with kids who would now have other places to walk to before or after the library visit. The extra business these visitors could bring to nearby shops would be part of the justification, as would increased use of the library by kids who simply can't get to the current library outposts.

For me though, the main driver is to build a downtown that allows citizens to carry on with daily life in a way that is sustainable. It seems as if those saying this or that can't be done are not taking seriously our predicament regarding energy costs and climate change.

Progress on these problems is not going to come from Washington, but in how cities structure our daily lives.

David, it's not believing this or that can't be done, it is more the realistic assessment of where we stand today. Neither the political nor the financial will is there to scrap the current library plan at this late date. That's a realistic assessment of the situation, not a cop out. Come January 14, the Town Council will be moving further forward on the Pritchard Park expansion.

Some Carrboro citizens want more than the County Library services currently offered at McDougal or its downtown Cybrary. Orange County says they don't have the funds and that they need to provide services to portions of the county that have none. Does Carrboro want to fund it's own municipal library? I think they have answered the question already, and again, that's a reality.

Cities will structure our daily lives in a new direction when they can get their citizens to buy in to that new direction. That's the rub, isn't it? Enough people are not willing to get out of their cars at this point. Look at Kidzu - how do the vast majority get there with their kids to visit and enjoy other downtown opportunities?

I think we need to work toward helping people move in that new direction, but looking at how well we are doing with getting people to do a better job conserving water, I'm not optimistic. My wife and I got our last meter reading down to one unit, but that sure doesn't mean that others are as willing to conserve as aggressively or make similar sacrifices.

Fred, The water supply issue is a great example - effective leadership in Durham and Raleigh would have kept the crisis at a further distance by instituting serious rate increases once the remaining supply got below some figure, perhaps 200 days, with even higher rates after 100 days.

But this is the real test of a democracy, isn't it? Would leaders like this be thrown out of office, or would they be recognized for their stewardship? If we don't believe voters are capable of appreciating farsighted, effective leadership, then we are less likely to press the Council we do have to be courageous.

Despite our poor handling of the water supply, I still believe people will see its much easier to adapt to a higher water bill than to adapt to a trickling tap.

The matter of structuring fees and taxes to push us towards energy conservation and lower carbon emissions is trickier because people can't see a concrete symbol like the photos of dwindling reservoirs.

And then it's also easier to deny the need for action if they believe local change isn't going to make a local difference. Perhaps the State could be persuaded to provide local incentives by giving higher priority to DOT projects related to the Council's emission reduction goals.

Personally, I would love to see an accessible library branch. Being legally blind, I obviously do not drive. The bus access to the CHPL is inconvenient enough for me to wait for my spouse to chauffeur me over. As suggested earlier, a small bookless branch where I could do a little trip-chaining via bus or foot would be vastly better for me than the current set up. I wonder how representative I am, though. As someone else pointed out, many library users like to drive, especially parents, and can add the library to their many stops while running errands. Is there enough of a pedestrian, bicycling and public transit community of library goers to justify the addition expense? I would like to think so, but are there any numbers out there?

Jamie Bort - you've been quiet on this. What can you say about Carrboro's readiness to vote for a library bond either as partner with CH on a shared branch, or otherwise?

Can we rename the Carrboro Cybrary while we're at it?

No No No! As a contributing author to the Cybrarian's Manual and as the once and current boss of the guy who coined to words "cybrarian" and "cybrary," let me tell you to take pride in both the word and in the place.

In 1991, Simon Spero coined the words whilst working at what was then or would soon be and later be Simon is possibly the only resident of Chapel Hill/Carrboro (and currently Durham) to have a word of his coinage in the Oxford English Dictionary.

I don't know what a cybrary is but an obvious cure down the road (pun intended) for people having to drive to the library is for them to download e-books from it instead. It won't be too many years until libraries won't even be needed due to all the books being electronically available, which kinda sucks because I really like books and newspapers too. Reading it from some hand held computer just doesn't hold the same charm, especially since I'm already in front of a computer all day for work.

the cybrary is at the century center

I think the Cybrary in Carrboro is a very good model of what CH could set up in the Northside area as a branch of its main library over in car-centric Pritchard Park.

Low cost: look, the Cybrary is in one room!
Diverse: the latest books, 4 terminals for Internet, mags and newspapers.
Access: excellent by bus or on foot, parking nearby.

What should be added:
Time: evening hours would be welcome [possibly instead of morning hours].
Book access: loans from the other libraries [say a day or two after a request].
Space: eventually larger rooms.

How about a sub-space in the Hargraves Center? Right in a neighborhood where books could do wonders! And where the coming of outside people could do good for this troubled community too! Lots of parking, close to downtown for a coffee afterwards, easy access by bus or on foot. Easily patrolled by our finest.

How about it Council members?

Well every time I see the word "cybrary"my brain (initially) turns it into "crybaby."


I think real print will be around for quite least for pleasure reading. Even the top-of-the line ebooks/laptops emit a hum...and many of us find that hum irritating.

But what do I know, I'm the woman who objects to schlepping 20 pounds of books up library hill. (That's two or three art books, btw.)

At UNC you can check out books if you become a Friend of the Library. It costs only $10 minimum and that status lasts a year, or more, if you're lucky. It's cheaper than $25 directly to the library, the money goes to a different place, and the additional paperwork is minimal.

Can we rename e-Than too?
iThan is far more current.

Putting everything downtown does not strike me as a particularly thoughtful way to save energy. Most people do not live downtown. Although a 'full service' library at the spot might be useful, if we are talking about a small public space, the cybrary already serves that purpose and is only about seven blocks away! I used to live off 15-501 near the border of Chapel Hill and Durham. A lot of people live there. There are few public spaces. Borders books is often packed. A Cybrary style institution there would undoubtedly get a lot of use, much of it from people either walking, or, at worst, making short trips with cars. If you want people to walk more, or make shorter trips with cars, disperse more of the institutions they use every day into locations close to their homes. I am often flabbergasted by the way sustainable urban living around here is always visualized as having a more central downtown, which, in theory, people would get to on buses. More likely, screaming about the lack of parking downtown would intensify. 'Improving' downtown in practically any way would also increase pressure to throw out the remaining poor people so that upper middle class people can enjoy the scene. Why not figure ways to 'de-sprawl' the neighborhoods that already exist?

This librarian feels compelled to let folks know that you can get electronic access, for free, to Consumer Reports, GQ, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, etc., paid by your state tax dollars, through your local NC library.

Call your local library and ask for the NC Live password. Then use your local library's website as a portal. It's amazing the stuff you can get.

(And providing information like this is a compulsion... really, just try asking a librarian a question and then not letting him or her answer. It's torture!)

This librarian also feels compelled to say that going digital does not mean we don't need libraries. Quite the contrary. The computer terminals at the Cybrary and CHPL are always busy. And libraries are just the places to provide no-cost access to these materials (even if it's a virtual rather than physical space). We don't want to live in a world where only the rich can read books.

Do you all really buy a lot of books? I don't know how you can afford it. We always use our local library, whether Carrboro or Cairo.

Sorry Simon & Paul, the word cybrary makes my teeth hurt, like webinar and most other www-related neologisms. I can't even type them without cringing a bit.

No Rosemary Street location of a library, thank you very much! A library in downtown Carrboro is a balanced alternative to the Town of Chapel Hill library on the east side and the publicly-accessible libraries on campus (I do have and use my locals-only UNC privledge card at $25/year). Among the many requests when WSM got the zoning for a five-story building across from the Carrboro store was the request for a library. And WHEN that day comes that the five-story building goes up, that'd be an ideal location for a library!


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