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Waccamaw Library: Friends set out to raise $500,000

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

It will be at least three years before construction of a new Waccamaw Library begins, but the library’s Friends group says it needs to start fund-raising as soon as possible, especially given the challenge of a poor economy.

“We know times are really tough,” Jean Cross, the group’s president, told the Georgetown County Library Board last week. “In order to do this job well, we need time.”

The Friends of the Waccamaw Library asked for permission to start putting together a committee to raise funds for a new library.

Though the board didn’t have a quorum at its meeting last week, Friends representatives were told to go ahead and begin forming the committee.

“Don’t delay; this board is going to say OK,” said Dwight McInvaill, library director. “I’d go ahead and get moving, then come back and get an official approval later.”

The county’s capital improvement plan calls for construction of a new Waccamaw Library in 2012 and 2013.

Land on Willbrook Boulevard has been purchased and funding is earmarked to cover most of the project’s $10 million cost, but County Council asked library staff and volunteers to come up with $500,000.

Officers with the Friends group told the board they would be willing to take the lead in that effort.

The Friends also need seed money to pay for architectural renderings and other materials to use and distribute as they try to raise money, they said.

Cross estimated between $15,000 and $20,000 would be needed to “get going.”

McInvaill told them to start with identifying people to serve on the committee and contacting them.

He named specific types of people they should be on the lookout for, including “people who are passionate about library service, dreamers who can think about services needed in the library and how they should be laid out, and people who are influential and have deep pockets themselves.”

Public input from Waccamaw Neck residents will also be needed, he said.

Cross said she’d like the committee to include a representative from the library board. Nancy Altman of Pawleys Island was nominated. Altman was enthusiastic about serving on the committee.

Bill Gaskins, acting chairman of the library board, told the group he is sure they will have the support of all the board members, “because it is so important to have a grand facility to serve that community.”

Though a committee hasn’t yet been formed, Friends officers already have some funding leads.

They have a tentative commitment for “a fairly large grant” from a private foundation. The group was helped by “an angel,” a part-time Waccamaw Neck resident with experience in library fund-raising, who has been assisting and advising Cross.

The first part of the fund-raising process will be quiet, McInvaill said, as the committee works on identifying large contributors, then “we’ll push it in a really public way, with parties and such things.”

In the meantime, Cross said she welcomes fund-raising suggestions, ideas and calls from those interested in serving on the fund-raising committee. She can be reached at 546-9293.

Budget cuts leave library non-compliant | The Georgetown County library system’s $1.1 million budget is nearly $50,000 less than it was in Fiscal Year 2008, making the library non-compliant with state law.

“This is the first time this has happened,” McInvaill said. “It’s extraordinary, but these times are extraordinary, too.”

State law requires each county to support its library at a level at least equal to that of two years prior. Georgetown is one of six counties that failed to do that this year.

The state library director will grant the county a one-year waiver and review the situation again next year, but the county will need to become compliant as soon as possible, McInvaill said.

If the county doesn’t become compliant, the library system could lose state aid, which amounted to $120,000 this year, and the ability to apply for certain grants.

Digital library helps CNN special | Images from the Georgetown County Digital Library were used last week on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” as part of a segment on first lady Michelle Obama’s Georgetown County heritage.

It is believed Obama’s ancestor, Jim Robinson, was once a slave on Friendfield Plantation.

The show’s producers traveled to the Georgetown Library and worked with staff to research federal Census records for Georgetown County and other historical documents related to 19th century Georgetown.

The digital library, at www.gcdigital.org, features more than 16,000 photographs, historical newspapers and real estate indentures.

Project manager Julie Warren said it averages 5,452 hits per day from around the globe and is becoming a “well-known and well-used site among researchers and others.”

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