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Waccamaw Library: Fundraiser starts mapping out capital campaign

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Carlethia Rudolph isn’t worried about raising the $3 million needed to build a new Waccamaw Library.

“I know for a fact people pay for what they want,” said Rudolph, the library’s branch manager since 1991.

And though she’s heard from a number of folks who don’t want the library to move from its spot on Library Lane, there are plenty who can’t wait to have a bigger, better library in Litchfield.

Rudolph was among about a dozen library officials, including staff and Friends members, who met on Monday with professional fundrasiers from Sims & Steele Consulting of Asheville, N.C., the firm the county plans to hire to head the library fundraising effort.

Negotiations are nearing an end and the firm is expected to sign a contract with the county next week, said Dwight McInvaill, the county’s library director.

The meeting with the firm was to start the process of determining if there is enough support and interest in a new library to make a fundraising campaign successful. But Wilson Sims, a partner in Sims & Steele, said he also wanted to get to know those who would be working with him and hear about their hopes and fears for the campaign.

While there were several who worried about raising the necessary amount in a tough economy, keeping the library current was of equal concern.

“There’s an undercurrent that books are passé,” said Linda Ketron, a longtime member of the Friends group.

With the growing popularity of e-books, she worried that younger generations won’t be interested in books and “libraries will be a Kindle in your back pocket.”

Those present agreed, a new library needs to meet needs that are changing with technology.

“If they want Kindles, we’ll give them Kindles,” said Trudy Bazemore, assistant library director. “We need to make sure we let people know it’s not just about books. Libraries have always been an information center, helping people find what they need, and that can come in any form.”

Sims & Steele will begin a feasibility study this month to see if the library the group envisions is one it can afford.

The county will contribute $3.4 million toward a new library as part of its capital improvement plan. But the proposed 27,000-square-foot building with a cultural center, Friends of the Library store, auditorium, café, and separate areas for children, teens and adults, will cost about $6 million. That means the friends will have to raise at least $2.6 million. They increased their goal to $3 million to accommodate a $1 million grant McInvaill applied for. The grant requires a 3-to-1 match.

The study is expected to take about three months and will include identifying potential donors who might be willing to make large contributions, as well as small groups of people who will be invited to give input on what is needed in a new library and help the firm gauge interest in a new library.

“We’ll want to talk to those who have a passion for libraries, community leaders and people in the community who have the knowledge and ability to network,” Sims said.

He said he’ll also be asking library and county officials questions about funds already in hand and whether the county wants to pursue an additional acre it has been eyeing at the site where the new library will be built.

“We don’t want to get through the fundraising process and realize we forgot something,” Sims said.

Under the proposal from Sims & Steele, the county will pay the company up to $26,890 to conduct the study. That includes up to $3,390 in travel expenses and $7,500 for public relations work, though McInvaill said he expects the cost will be lower than projected.

If the study concludes the county should move forward with a fundraising campaign, phase 2 can begin in late September or early October with pre-campaign work. That will include final adjustments to the conceptual design for the new library, recruitment of the committee that will lead the campaign and the hiring of a local person part-time to serve as campaign coordinator.

The county expects to pay Sims & Steele $176,515 for phase 2, which includes the coordinator’s salary.

The actual fundraising will begin with major donors and then open up to the public. Sims said there’s no way to know exactly how long that phase will go one.

“It could be six months,” he said. “We’ll continue working until we are successful or we have to downsize the campaign.”

McInvaill said it would be a terrible loss for the community if plans have to be scaled back for lack of funds.

“The size we’re proposing is just big enough based on the most conservative formula,” he said. Calculations are based on population and projected growth.

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