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Donor support puts new library on track for 2014

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Plans for a new Waccamaw Library have sufficient public support to justify beginning a fundraising campaign for its construction, according to a recent study by Sims & Steele Consulting.

The Asheville, N.C., firm was hired by the county this summer to determine if a capital campaign could be successful, and organize any ensuing fundraising efforts.

The firm has since interviewed nearly 50 people from throughout Georgetown County, presenting information about the proposed library, scheduled to open in July 2014, and its benefits for the community. They got a very positive response, Wilson Sims, a partner in the firm, told the library’s Friends group at their annual meeting last week.

As part of the interviews, participants were asked their opinion of the rationale presented in the case for a new library. Eighty-five percent said the rationale made sense.

“That’s a good indication that people think this is a rational, logical approach,” Sims said.

Additionally, 89 percent said they think the plan to proceed with building a new library is a good one and 72 percent said they were willing and ready to make a donation to help get the project on its way.

“There were 17 percent who said they would have to check their bank account balance first, and 11 percent who said no,” Sims said.

“Based on our tabulations and our experience working on successful projects, we recommend that you proceed with Phase 2.”

That means the firm and library volunteers will begin work in the coming months generating more support for a new library in preparation for asking folks to pull out their checkbooks.

The firm has already worked on identifying potential donors and a fundraising committee has been formed.

Architectural firms interested in working on the library will submit proposals next summer and Sims & Steele wants to have as much of the funding as possible identified by then, so the architects have a better idea of the project’s scope.

Plans are to build a 27,000-square-foot library with a cultural center, Friends of the Library store, auditorium, café, and separate areas for children, teens and adults. But that hinges on the ability to raise enough money to bridge the gap between what County Council has earmarked for the project in its capital improvement plan and the projected $6 million cost of the facility — a difference of more than $3 million.

A new library will be built regardless, but if fund-raising efforts fall short, it might not be the facility that has been envisioned.

The target opening date of mid-2014 “sounds like a long way off, but it’s a pretty aggressive schedule to be there,” said Ted Hiley, part of the fundraising committee.

Dwight McInvaill, the county’s library director, expressed faith in the friends group, as well as thanks.

“You all are golden,” he said. “You’re the golden group of Georgetown County and come forth with support for the library system, and especially the Waccamaw Library, again and again and again.”

Showcasing the need for a new library, branch manager Carlethia Rudolph said more than 1,000 people signed up for library cards in the last 12 months.

The number of people signing up for library cards increases by small margins, but steadily every year, she said.

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