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Rowan County’s budget includes money for west Rowan library

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

CLEVELAND — Western Rowan County inched closer to getting a full-service library when County Manager Aaron Church released his 2017-18 budget.

The proposed budget, released Monday, includes $30,000 to hire an architect to draft designs for a library in the western part of the county. The library would be located at Cleveland Elementary School.

At this point, it’s unclear when the library would open. The county commissioners first need to approve the budget and later allocate additional funding for library construction. But the facility would be the first of its kind in the western part of the county.

Cleveland has a self-serve library next to Town Hall, but it’s only 100 square feet and does not have computers. The library opens and closes at the same time as Cleveland Town Hall. Rowan Public Library Director Jeff Hall said the small building opened as a library within the previous 10 years.

“It’s a self-serve, honor-system type situation,” said Hall. “It’s really just for books. There’s no modern-type things.”

Hall said the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville is the closest full-service library for many western Rowan County residents.

“And they have to pay a fee to use it,” Hall said. “The ideal situation is that you have a library with a 5-mile radius of where you live.”

As part of the Rowan Public Library system’s budget request, Hall included $500,700 for the library. About half of the cost would be one-time expenses for construction. The remainder would pay for staff and other operating expenses. Church funded only enough to hire an architect, but the county commissioners have spoken in favor of following through with the proposal. Commissioners discussed the idea in some detail during this year’s planning retreat.

Hall said the library would “bring a lot of equity” to the western portion of the county. Those areas don’t always receive the same services as in other parts of the county, he said.

County Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene, who lives in Cleveland, spoke in favor of building a west Rowan library.

“The library has always been a central location for learning,” Greene said. “Even though a lot of learning takes place on computers and websites, the library is still a good place to learn information. They even half old-fashioned books.”

Hall said the county plans to work with Rowan-Salisbury Schools to repurpose the Cleveland Elementary School media center. If approved, the change would be made in conjunction with construction of a consolidated west Rowan County elementary school on the current school site in Cleveland. But the public library would not share a building with the elementary school, Hall said.

Hall said a western Rowan County library would be smaller than the county’s other libraries — in China Grove, Salisbury and Rockwell. It will, however, offer more services than the current building.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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