The 203 Project, an upcoming facility that will house Carrboro's first full-time library, underwent financial and construction plan changes in the past month.
The project, which was originally approved on Nov. 17, 2020, by the Carrboro Town Council, is set to open in late 2022. This new facility will be located at 203 S. Greensboro St. and will house the Orange County Southern Branch Library.
Renee Price, chairperson of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, said the only challenge in recent months to keep the project rolling has been financial adjustments to the construction.
Price said the BOCC voted at a March 2 meeting to allocate an additional $1.8 million to the project after rearrangements were made to the building and parking deck design, increasing its cost. She said the Board approved it because the facility is a vital community resource.
“We all realized the importance of the library and the significance that it is to the community to have a place where you can read books and periodicals and go online, particularly for people who don’t have a computer at home or don’t have WiFi,” Price said.
Now that the financing has been worked out, Price said the community center should begin construction in fall 2021 to open for public use in late 2022.
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Libraries have been advocating for over 30 years to build a library in town, and their efforts have been transformative in making the library become a reality.
“(They) were advocating, going to meetings, talking about the need for a library in the town, holding book sales twice a year to raise money and just constantly reminding all the elected officials of the importance of this library,” Lavelle said.
Lavelle said the new library will benefit the local community for many reasons including improving literacy, equity, keeping downtown vibrant and increasing business activity.
Currently, only two county-operated part-time libraries exist in Carrboro. The Carrboro Branch Library holds the main book collection and is co-located at McDougle Elementary and Middle Schools. The Cybrary is housed inside the Carrboro Century Center and serves as a technology-based facility.
Both of these part-time libraries have short hours and smaller offerings than what the Orange County Southern Branch Library will host, Nerys Levy, the art committee chair of the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Libraries, said.
“This satellite library was just not serving the population adequately,” Levy said. “(The new library) will be open during the day seven days a week to serve the population and the taxpayers who are paying for a service that they were not fully getting.”
With a population of 21,190, Levy said Carrboro is the largest town in North Carolina without a library, and there are many underserved groups in the town who have a great need for the facility.
“Orange County has been very far behind in the state for the provision of libraries, so it was getting everybody to realize the need,” Levy said. “It was also the amalgamation of the land owned by Carrboro and funds from the town of Carrboro and Orange County that came together to eventually make this project possible.”
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