December 19, 2023 at 10:28 a.m.

Editorial: What To Do About Libraries



WAYNE HOWARD | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
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Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem said it at the beginning of Monday's special joint meeting of the Lincoln County Commissioners and County Library Board: "you can't satisfy everybody."

State representative Jason Saine and senator Ted Alexander got $18 million for the County Library system.  It can be used for capital improvements or equipment.  While Library Director Dr. Jennifer Sackett had asked for the money for renovation or replacement of the existing main library in Lincolnton, the money can be used for library needs anywhere in the county.

Recently, Commissioners approved the purchase of the old AMC Theaters property on N. Aspen Street.  One possible use mentioned for that property was for a new main library location.

The double dilemma was the subject of a two-hours long joint session Monday afternoon.  The Library Board made it clear: they don't want the main library moved out of downtown Lincolnton.

Only one thing was actually decided at the special meeting: the next new library will be built in eastern Lincoln County.  The exact location is still to be decided.

Lincolnton Mayor Ed Hatley suggested that the library administrative services might be located at that new East Lincoln Library, but Library Director Dr. Jennifer Sackett objected to that idea which was part of a motion made by Commissioner Bud Cesena.  Commissioner Cathy Davis said a new study was needed before making a decision on the main library, currently housed in the Jonas Building on West Main Street.

Members of the Library Board had expressed an interest in having any new building on West Water Street (current Farmers Market location) but that property along with the old Lincoln County Courthouse is being swapped with the City of Lincolnton in exchange for the City's 50% ownership of the airport.  

At one point in Monday's meeting, County Purchasing Agent John Henry showed a  power-point presentation of how the old theater building might be converted into a new main library.  

Among the objections was one Library Board member's statement that the N. Aspen Street location wasn't close enough to schools.  Actually, it's only a little further than the distance from LIncolnton High School to the current location...and much closer to Lincolnton Middle School, the School of Technology, Asbury School & G.E. Massey.  Also voiced was the opinion that "the main library needs to be in Lincolnton!"  The truth is, what was meant (but not said that way) was "it needs to be downtown."

This argument is a repeat of a similar one regarding the location of the Lincoln County Courthouse.  One former City Councilman asked us when it was being considered to editorially oppose the move to the current courthouse location, saying it would 'kill downtown Lincolnton.'  Instead, since the new courthouse opened, downtown has seen greater growth than experienced in the previous decade.

In his presentation, Henry said the new East Lincoln Library could be built with less than the $18 million, and said the additional funds could help to pay for renovating the old theater building.

Instead of moving the library administration to East Lincoln (which Sackett says is too far away from other library locations), we would suggest that those services might be moved to the Jonas Building.

Having a new library on N. Aspen Street has multiple advantages--not the least of which is the availability of parking (both in the existing parking lot and in additional parking that could easily be fit adjacent to it.  While it's not in the central business district, the N. Aspen Street location is actually more centrally located to the population of both the county and Lincolnton township than the West Main location.  Another potential advantage of using that location for a main library is that like what has been done at the new West Lincoln location and what might be done at the new one in East Lincoln, the County will have property there that can be developed into an adjacent park, further enhancing the library as a center of activity.  

Some would argue that the N. Aspen St. location wouldn't provide for foot traffic; but the truth is that very few of the current users actually go to the library on foot--they drive there.  

We applaud the Commissioners' decision to build a new library for East Lincoln.  It's both the most populated and fastest growing area of the county.  We also agree with Mayor Hatley that while Lincolnton is the county seat and the only municipality in the county, we need to expand our focus to include more than a few blocks downtown.  

For years, mostly for political reasons, the city limits of Lincolnton were kept the same as they had been in the 1950s.  Now--as it should have been long ago--Boger City is also part of Lincolnton, and recent annexations to the north have included areas off Startown and Clarks Creek roads.  

Moving the courts didn't kill downtown businesses; if anything, it made parking, although still difficult, more accessible.  Moving the library wouldn't have much adverse effect either; it might instead be good both for the city and county and for the library.

For now, the attention turns to deciding on a new East Lincoln library location.  No matter what else is eventually decided, it will have to wait.



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