New library concept includes college

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, October 3, 2013

The city and Paul D. Camp Community College have taken more steps toward building a new downtown library that incorporates space for college classes and resources, leaders revealed during a City Council retreat on Thursday.

The proposed new two-story building would be located just east of the current Morgan Memorial Library site, on the block bordered on the west by Lee Street and on the east by South Street. City leaders hope it, along with the new Municipal Building, will spur private redevelopment in the area.

“We’re getting ready to put some real effort into that,” Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said at the retreat of the library project. “We really want to focus attention on the West Washington Street corridor.”

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“The college really is excited about this opportunity,” Paul D. Camp Community College president Paul Conco said during the retreat. He predicted increased enrollment would result from the convenience of being able to attend some classes and access resources in the core downtown.

City Council voted in 2011 to explore options for a new central library in the face of rising demand with no expansion room at the current library. A conceptual plan for the new site and college collaboration was first discussed publicly at last year’s retreat.

Also proposed in early stages of planning for the library are a café, meeting rooms, a genealogy center and a local history museum.

“I really like the idea of telling somebody, ‘Meet me in the café at the front of the library,’” Roberts said during his presentation.

The city plans to approach the state for a feasibility study on the concept during this year’s legislative session, according to a preliminary legislative agenda unveiled during Wednesday’s regular work session. However, a legislative delay will not deter the project, leaders said.

Roberts said the city plans to explore opportunities for private donations and foundation funding to help build the new library.

He added part of the project could include reconfiguring nearby streets to align with one another to form four-way intersections.