New plan to carry county through 2016
Without any new funding, Union County’s library system plans to increase and diversify services over the next five years. Operating off of a planning grant, the system created a steering committee in 2010, addressing issues and mapping out plans until 2016.
The plan mainly addresses the changes that will be made for the improvement of the system as a whole. That includes increasing the use of technology at each branch, better resources for students, more community involvement, and the eventual expansion of operational hours and staff.
“We want to provide things to do so we will be a destination for teens in school and in summer,” Union County Library System Director Martie Smith told county commissioners June 20. She added there would be homework help for teens, while also focusing on those “reluctant readers” in the school system.
“(We’ll) provide personal assistance so (the kids) will find something that will excite their interest,” Smith said.
Another step this new plan took to ensure the success of students was adding all of the books on local schools summer reading lists to all Union County libraries. Smith said their wish is to be as prepared as possible for all the needs of students.
Conducting public surveys and collecting data, the system found that residents wanted help with more than just searching for a book, when they come to a library. Now, citizens can reserve up to an hour of time with individual librarians, who can help with anything from word processing questions to research. As part of the push to use more technology, the system also purchased ebooks using a $20,000 grant. Any Union County resident with a library card can go to the website, click on the ebook section and rent content. After the rental period expires, the content becomes locked once again.
By initiating this plan the system hopes to be able to better collaborate with their communities and to get people interested and involved.
Currently, the system has more than $5.5 million invested counting books, audio and DVDs, 112 public computers and 1200 different programs and classes running at the branches. That comes out to each county resident paying a cost of $18.86.
“I think that’s an outstanding return on the taxpayer investment,” Smith said.
The system also plans to facilitate better communication with community members, local schools, small businesses, South Piedmont Community College, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Union County Partnership for Progress. Communication is a high priority, Smith told a Union County Weekly reporter, because that was something not emphasized in past years.
A specific focus will be in working with the Chamber of Commerce and South Piedmont, to help business owners. The library will offer research services for current and prospective business owners to gather data, to help with their decisions.
The funding of the new plan will come from existing line items in the budget; no additional funding will be required. In the future the library system would like to receive more funding in order to expand upon this plan, and add additional staff and expanded hours to their facilities.
One thing not determined in the plan was the location of future library sites. Before the recession hit, Union County’s Library Board had looked at building either a “super regional” library or two district facilities, both in the western part of the county. While the library board determined a “super regional” facility would be cheaper, saving the county between $700,000 to $1 million, they also found that at least theoretically, two libraries would meet the needs of the most residents. In 2010, both Weddington and nearby Waxhaw attempted to convince commissioners any library should be built in their respective towns. Waxhaw tabled the idea. Weddington’s council meanwhile set aside $250,000 from their General Fund, to use for any future facility, as well as hire a consulting firm to examine potential sites.
There is nothing in the plan for new facilities in Waxhaw or Weddington, Smith stated, while adding the system hoped to be able to afford upgrades to the existing Waxhaw facility in the future.
“We desire to see the Waxhaw library receive some upgrades and to be renovated in order to better serve their community,” Smith said. In the near future they wish to be able to have additional staff who will work specifically with groups in the community to better provide programs and services that will be beneficial and educational.
“It is exciting to have an ambitious concrete plan set in place and to have such great changes to look forward to,” Smith said.