Charleston county residents prepare to vote on future of public libraries

Charleston county residents prepare to vote on future of public libraries

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Are you willing to pay more taxes to build new libraries and renovate the old ones? If you live in Charleston County, you'll have to answer that question next month.

75 percent of local residents visited a Charleston County Public Library in the last six months, that's according to an independent survey.

Next month, Charleston County voters will be asked to decide whether to pay $108.5 million to build or renovate 19 library buildings throughout the county. The money would come from raising property taxes. Library officials said it's a plan that's been nearly four years in the making.

The last Charleston County Public Library referendum was in 1986, when four new libraries were built.

With the average county library building being 44 years old, many community members have voiced their support for the upgraded facilities. 

Andy Smith said he comes to the West Ashley branch four or five times a week and enjoys renting movies and books.

"I think they're very important just for education, I just grew up with them and I feel they're important," said Smith.

Keon Cohen, 21, said he visits the Cooper River Memorial Branch in North Charleston almost everyday

"I read books, play on the computer, look up homework and you know get work done," said Cohen.

The first phase of the proposed plan consists of building two brand new libraries in areas with big growth. One on landed donated to the CCPL at Carolina Park in East Cooper. Library officials are hoping to partner with surrounding schools in West Ashley to build a second brand new library near Bees Ferry Road.

"The library's my home away from home, so I'm all for more of them," said Smith.

The plan also calls for replacing three outdated buildings: the Cooper River Memorial and branches in James Island and St.Paul's/Hollywood.

"It would make it more attractive and also make it more desirable for people to come and spend time in," said Gina Mullen, mother who visits the library with her two children.

Once the new buildings are completed, renovation on the other libraries will start.

All of the libraries will be upgraded with state of the art technology, most notably - more computers. Community members who use the libraries said the demand for more computers is high, especially in the hours after students get out of school.

"A lot of people they sit and wait 40 minutes to an hour waiting for a computer," said Cohen.

Each branch would also have community meeting rooms, spaces for children and teens, and quiet study areas.

"Instead of just being on the street getting caught up with dumb choices, you can be in a library making better choices for your life," said Cohen.

If passed, the property tax would come out to about $11 per year on a $100,000 home. Once the project is finished, it's expected to cost $6.80 a year to keep the libraries running. If approved, the building project is expected to be finished by the year 2020.

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