A consultant hired by Buncombe County has completed a 9-month study of the county’s library facilities that includes a recommendation to close the Swannanoa and Black Mountain branch libraries and build a new, much larger regional library to serve both communities. In a May 18 presentation to the County Commission, the consultant sited the deteriorating condition of the existing library buildings, the lack of expansion options, and the fact that the buildings are leased to the county rather than owned, as key reasons for its recommendation. To see the consultant’s powerpoint presentation, click here.
The Swannanoa Library building and surrounding park and playground are located in the Grovemont community, and are owned by the Swannanoa Community Council, a community nonprofit. The Town of Black Mountain owns the Black Mountain library building. Both libraries are operated by the county under lease agreements.
The consultant’s proposal calls for replacing the two existing libraries with a 20,000 square foot regional library to serve the Swannanoa Valley. (This is 6,000 square feet larger than the new East Asheville Library, which recently had its grand opening.) Currently, the Swannanoa and Black Mountain libraries have a combined 8,970 square feet of space. No recommendations have been made regarding a specific location for a new library.
While applauding the county’s desire to offer enhanced library services, the Town of Black Mountain and Friends of the Black Mountain Library have taken a position in opposition to the consultant’s proposal, arguing that the two separate libraries are essential components of their respective communities, and should be expanded and improved (or, in the alternative, relocated nearby the existing facilities), rather than closed. To read more about their position, visit folblackmountain.org.
The Swannanoa Community Council, Friends of the Swannanoa Library, and Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) recognize the many advantages of our neighborhood-based community library, but also acknowledge that the current facility is small and in need of upgrades. These three Swannanoa organizations have sent a letter to the County Commissioners asking them to conduct a further review of all available options, including improvements to the existing library, a new library in another location, or other alternatives that may be supported by the community. Most importantly, the organizations have requested that our community be involved in the decision-making process, with ample opportunities for local residents who will be most affected to give feedback and suggestions. To read the letter that was sent to the County Commissioners, please click here.
The consultant is expected to present a final report to the County Commission at the regular commission meeting on Tuesday, June 15. However, in response to community feedback already received, the County has announced (through a post on the County Facebook page) that any decisions regarding the branch libraries have been put on “pause” to allow time for gathering additional information and community input. The Facebook post goes on to say that “for the next steps, Buncombe County Public Libraries, the Library Board, and Communications and Public Engagement, will develop an expanded plan for listening sessions that will be shared with the public in the coming days.”
It’s important that the County Commission hears from Swannanoa residents about this very significant issue. What are your thoughts about the proposal to consolidate the Swannanoa and Black Mountain libraries? What do you need and want for your local library, and how do you think the community can best be served? Please click here to send an email to the County Commissioners to let them know what you think.