A freestanding library in Carrboro — a project 25 years in the making — is moving closer to realization as local officials work to decide on criteria for the library’s location.
On Tuesday night, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen discussed revisions to the county’s proposed criteria for the site of the future Southwest Orange County Regional Branch Library.
Mayor Mark Chilton and board member Jackie Gist voiced concerns that guidelines the county has proposed for selecting a Carrboro location would lead to a library site outside of downtown — making it harder for low-income residents and minorities to access.
Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library has been fighting for a new library for years, and members have said they worry delays over the criteria could make the project costlier or even halt it.
There are two area libraries, the Carrboro Branch Library at McDougle Middle School and the Cybrary at the Carrboro Century Center, but neither is freestanding.
“At the moment, between the two libraries, we are serving a public of 35,000 with two sub-standard facilities,” said Nerys Levy, a member of Friends of Carrboro Library.
Levy said the libraries aren’t full-service because the Carrboro Branch Library is closed to the public during the school day and the Cybrary contains mostly computers.
But the push for a new library hit a snag last August when county commissioners rejected a proposed location at 210 Hillsborough Road near Carrboro Elementary School.
The site was declared unfit because it was located in a residential area, and there were cost and property title issues.
And now the board wants to revise site requirements to make centrality and community preferences more of a priority than the county had planned.
The aldermen will meet again on March 6 to finalize revisions before returning them to the Orange County Board of Commissioners for review.
County commissioners chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier said it’s important to realize the library will serve all of southwest Orange County.
“Sometimes it gets forgotten that this is not a Carrboro library,” she said.
“Because of water and sewer issues and accessibility issues, it makes sense to put it in Carrboro.”
Pelissier said though the Carrboro Board of Aldermen is giving feedback, the county board will make the final decision on criteria.
“We want to have a process where the community feels this is the right way to proceed with a library,” she said.
Lucinda Munger, the Orange County Library director, said no county funds have been spent on the site criteria process, only staff time. But she said last year’s failed Hillsborough Road plan cost the county $27,793.
Alex Brown, president of Friends of Carrboro Branch Library, said she would like to see the freestanding library in operation in the next five years.
“We would have liked for it to be built 20 years ago,” she said. “The realistic answer is as soon as possible.”
Contact the City Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.