Voters will have an opportunity in November to consider a referendum to build new libraries and renovate existing libraries - an issue last on the ballot 28 years ago.
Charleston County Council agreed to place the $108.5 million building plan on the ballot to let voters decide whether to spend funds to address the library's existing building and technology deficiencies.
The Construction and Renovation Final Plan includes:
constructing five libraries - three serve as replacements for the existing James Island, Cooper River Memorial and St. Paul's/Hollywood branches and new branches in both the East Cooper/Carolina Park and Bee's Ferry/Highway 61 areas;
renovating and upgrading the technology for the remaining 13 branches; and
relocating of current support services now located within the Main Library so that space can be freed up for public use.
The construction plan will cost an estimated $11.20 annually on an owner-occupied home assessed at $100,000. Once all the new buildings are constructed and opened in approximately 2020, there would be approximately $5.6 million annually in additional operating costs, which would equal about $6.80 annually on that same home.
The county is talking to the local school district and area municipalities about potential sites for the new libraries in an effort to co-locate those branches and reduce costs.
The last time voters considered a library building referendum was 28 years ago. Approved by 76 percent of the voters, that referendum provided funds to build four regional libraries - Mt. Pleasant, Dorchester Road, St. Andrews and Otranto Road - plus the expansion or construction of a new Main Library.
Since the 1986 referendum, the county's population has grown 27 percent while the library's circulation soared by 289 percent in the same period. Current circulation is nearly 3.4 million items annually. Additionally, the library offered nearly 6,000 free programs, classes, exhibits, concerts and similar programs last year, attracting more than 166,000 residents.
In a comparison to public library standards adopted by the S.C. State Library, CCPL fell far below the standards in multiple categories. For instance, the standards say libraries should have 1.25 square feet of public space per capita. Locally, that would equal more than 450,000 square feet of libraries to serve local residents, but CCPL's 16 branches have 155,458 square feet or about .43 square feet per resident. In the area of technology, the state says libraries should have three public computers per 1,000 residents or more than 1,000 locally. CCPL has .9 public computers or 349 public computers.