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Wednesday, 20 October 2010 20:01

Swain gathers opinions on how to improve library

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Bryson City’s Marianna Black Library could be getting a facelift, and library leaders are looking to patrons for a grasp on exactly how to do that.

In eight public input sessions held last week, Swain County Librarian Jeff Delfield and consultant Ron Dubberly quizzed locals about what they’d like to see change about the library. Delfield said the comments represented a broad spectrum of opinions about how best to change the library, if at all.

“There was a varied range,” said Delfield. “I mean, there was everything from ‘don’t change a thing please, I love this library exactly the way it is,’ to folks saying ‘We want outdoor staged seating.’”

The meetings were the first in a series of information gathering sessions for the library’s visioning process. The next stop for consultant Dubberly will be meetings with stakeholders who have a vested interest in the library — the business community, the school board and other local organizations.

Swain County is following in the footsteps of Jackson and Macon, who both held visioning processes before building new libraries. While no conclusions have yet been drawn for Marianna Black, Delfield believes that parking might be a part of the equation, if not an entirely new building.

“In general, folks that use the library a lot know that we need parking,” said Delfield.

He said that library users are also keen to see more of what they already get from the library.

“They’re asking for more of the services that we already offer – more books, more movies, more computers, more meeting spaces,” said Delfield.

That’s a sentiment echoed by library-goers themselves.

“I think they could probably expand the book collection, and maybe get more periodicals,” said Bryson City resident Dan Sikorra, who stops by the library to read periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal.

When asked what she would like to see in a revamped library, Nantahala Gorge resident Rose Ponton also said the library could benefit from swelling its stacks.

“It’s hard to find the books I’m looking for here,” she said, “but I think the Marianna Black Library is doing a great job.” Ponton mainly comes to use the wireless Internet, but said she’d take advantage of lending services as well if more books stocked the shelves.

Swain County is in the early stages of the process, and Delfield said part of the reason such a range of opinions was expressed at the forums was consultant Dubberly’s “pie-in-the-sky question,” asking residents what they would do for the library with an unlimited budget.

After gathering opinions from the community, the library board and other key library stakeholders — along with factual demographic information — Dubberly and his team will generate a report recommending steps to grow the library in the future.

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