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We must update main library

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By Rosemary Whitlock

I’d like to give an affirmative nod to Ken Bell’s May 31 column, “Library needs to keep up.”
When I, my husband and three children moved to Lancaster from Virginia we inquired about the most important things a county must provide its residents. For instance, the sheriff’s office gave tips on safe areas to rent a house. At that time it was North Catawba Street, with an excellent school nearby, as well as doctors, churches and grocery stores.
After home and school, my next priority was a public library to aid my children’s learning experiences and broaden my own horizon.
I found the treasure of a public library on East Gay Street. It was housed in a very small brick building with some material stacked on top of file cabinets for lack of space, but Ms. Robbie Horton was very helpful and knew just where every type of study and reading materials were stacked or shelved.
We were so excited in 1969 when the new and large library was built. The new library also had a Carolinian room where groups could do research or hold meetings. Now we were in high cotton with more learning tools and more “just for the pleasure of reading” materials and organized programs for children.
Pat Belk became the new librarian of this new library on South White Street until about 1979 and the library continued to grow in services to the public.
Richard Band has been our librarian for the past 34 years and the library now has two branches and other amendments. But this once sturdy and functional library is now outdated. It stands in dire need of being added onto or relocating.
When the developer of property in Indian Land recognized the need and drawing card for a state-of-the art library in the northern end of the county, he went for it. He has been rewarded on his investment and in turn the county has benefited.
For many years, Indian Land was ignored as a possible growth area. When outside developers recognized the potential of South Carolina’s low taxes and proximity to Charlotte, those developers zoomed in to the area.
Now our County Council seems to be of the mind of investing more in the Indian Land area. Council needs to realize that if we let this end of Lancaster deteriorate we become a county the size of Indian Land, which would mean we could never have a larger tax base. We can never grow and realize our dreams of a progressive Lancaster County.
Bring up to par
This parent end of Lancaster houses our city, University of South Carolina Lancaster, Catawba Cultural Center, Lancaster County Airport, Founders Federal Credit Union Headquarters, the Lancaster & Chester Railway and some business parks. We need to concentrate on bringing the central end of Lancaster up to par. One of the major needs in the central part of Lancaster is an updated library. The downtown library is the mother of the elegant, progressive Indian Land Del Webb Library, but the mother library looks like a cast-adrift orphan.
Have our county leaders taken a few moments to even visit the downtown library and observe its functions to operate professionally in such an overcrowded space? Have our leaders observed the computer island crowded onto the main floor with people walking back and forth, and see the computer users’ personal information as they search for employment or doing family research?
These computers are crowded onto a table area with no semi-walls to separate one post from another. There is no privacy. The computers are electrically plugged into posts mounted on the table top, not onto a hard drive,
First Baptist helps
First Baptist Church, which is next door to the library, is so concerned for the children attending the summer reading programs that it offers church space for almost 250 children who participate. The library and church staff also are concerned about the children crossing the busy parking lot even as mothers and library staff guard them.
The children’s section of the 34-year-old library cannot accommodate that many children at one time. The Monday morning children’s programs are packed and there is not enough staff to keep the programs running smoothly.
The carpet in the children’s section is ancient and thin. It smells from the numerous drinks and snacks spilled on it over the years. The carpet causes issues with children with respiratory problems.
The problems with this parent library have gotten so bad many patrons now just drive to the Del Webb Library in Indian Land. They can shop at the many stores in the northern end of the county and in Charlotte. But as the main library deteriorates so will the rest of the downtown.
We need to concentrate on upscaling our tax base by impressing more entrepreneurs to invest in this closer-to-Columbia-side of Lancaster County. And we need a state-of-art library.
A well-traveled friend once told me, “In my travels, I always visit each county’s library. One can tell a lot about a county by the appearance and functions of their library.”
Richard Band recently said, “The library is my life’s work. I have accomplished much in my 34 years as librarian here, but my biggest disappointment is I couldn’t procure a new library for central Lancaster. The present library at 313 S. White St. is long past its prime and it is as though its walls are closing in.”
Lancaster’s slogan is “Proud and Progressive.” Let’s live up to it with a new library to meet the needs of the central part of Lancaster.
Extend the bond referendum of a 1-cent sales tax that was voted in to pay for the proud and progressive courthouse in the central base of Lancaster.
If Lancaster’s leaders don’t care about the adult users of the library, then care about the 250 eager-to-learn children bravely crossing a busy parking lot to another building to extend the services of the old library. Let’s do it. Replace or remodel and add onto this 43-year-old proud-but-outdated library.
Remember, Lancaster County owns the land beside the present library.

Rosemary Whitlock is a Lancaster County resident.