A Jackson County library primer

For Jackson County’s book-loving residents, the temporary closure of the public library in Sylva presents true hardship, a time of doing without and intense, shared community pain.

The current library on Main Street closes May 2 while some 40,000 items are toted up the hill to a grand new library beside the renovated, historic courthouse. The library will boost its opening day collection with 24,000 new books, DVDs, audio books and other materials — even portable audioplayers that come pre-loaded with audio books.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for June 11.

Recognizing the dangers of widespread reader deprivation, Jackson County’s librarians, bookstore owners and others have taken steps to help during this long public library drought.

Library cards are available at Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University, both located in Jackson County. The Fontana Regional Library card possessed by every Jackson County library user is universally recognized in libraries in Cashiers, Highlands, Franklin, Bryson City, and if you are desperate and don’t mind a really long drive, in the Nantahala community, which has a tiny book facility of its own.

Friends of the Library is laying out the welcome mat at its Main Street bookstore, as is City Lights Bookstore’s Chris Wilcox, who nobly noted, “I’m staying open long hours … of course we do that anyway,” he said.


New assistant librarian

Just in time for a new library, there’s a new assistant librarian in Jackson County: Elizabeth “Liz” Gregg, from Radford, Va., has joined the staff. She graduated in 2008 from UNC-Chapel Hill’s information and library science master’s degree program. Gregg spent two years working in the Piedmont area of the state.


Need a book fix?

Librarians at Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University are prepared to welcome the deprived public-library folks into their institutions. Though, it must be admitted, you might find the general fiction a bit lacking when compared to the choices at a public library. The collections, after all, are geared toward academia. But don’t be intimidated! This is a fine time to take on those classics you’ve neglected to read, or to perhaps to peruse a riveting academic journal or something along those lines. A library card at SCC is free; one at WCU costs $10 a year, you need a driver’s license for proof of residency. Additionally, SCC, keep in mind, in particular is geared toward working-aged students, who rely on the library as a place to get away from home for quiet study. That said, “We’re glad to be able to help people,” SCC Library Director Dianne Lindgren noted.


Rely on the library for Internet access, what to do now?

Well, you can ride up and down Main Street in Sylva and find laptop WiFi hotspots, or you can head to Southwestern Community College’s Holt Library and Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library. Frankly, you’re better off at WCU, which has more computers available. Dean Dana Sally said he’s happy to have the university library help out. “A lot of community members — probably 300 — already use our library,” Sally said. “Maybe this will create an uptick.”  


Got book donations?

Don’t throw those old books away! With the library closed, Sandra Burbank, who oversees the Friends of the Library’s Used Bookstore, is urging folks to bring them directly to the store (on Main Street, so you can pick up bread at the same time a few doors down at Annie’s Naturally Bakery, or stop on the way and get a cup of coffee at John’s place, Signature Brew Coffee Company). “At the same time,” Burbank cleverly added about book givers, “they can take a look around the bookstore.” And, she hopes, buy something, which, after all, goes to help fund the new library.


Want to join in the fun?

Then become a volunteer — Jackson County even has a new library volunteer coordinator, Jeni Silver, who is currently accepting applications. The jobs include tour guides, greeters, shelvers, book repairers, book coverers, patrolling and facility monitoring (in short, all the dirty work we really don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars having staff do). Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or snail mail to: Volunteers, P.O. 1122, Dillsboro, N.C. 28725.


Library recruits readers to help

Jackson County’s library has encouraged patrons to check out as many books as they want — boxes of them, carloads of them, moving vans full of them — to help potentially deprived readers during the library closure and to help the library: because, of course, it then will have fewer to move.

Darlene and Isaac Melcher, children Bela, age 1, and Audrey, age 3, took advantage of the library’s largesse one day last week. The couple filled a diaper box and a cloth bag with children’s books, from 60 to 100, in expectations of a month at least without access to the children’s collection.

“They love being read to,” Darlene Melcher said. “They like story time.”

Of course, while Bela is big on pictures Audrey has recently moved on to enjoying a read-aloud narrative, meaning two sets of books instead of one were necessary to sustain the young family.

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