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Library proponents unveil a visual

fr librarysignThe new Swain County library isn’t a reality yet — except in the minds of the true believers.

Last week, a group of Swain residents who are certain the journey to a new library is well underway gathered on a sprawling parcel resting off of Fontana Road.

“Take a moment, take a look and take it in,” said Chester Bartlett, chair of the Marianna Black Library Board.

All around is the grand vision’s ambitious footprint. With a little imagination one can try to glimpse the eventual campus, the future’s palace of information and knowledge, its communal hub.

But already, using no imagination at all, there was a clear sign of the library’s coming. It sat cloaked near the roadside. At the appropriate time Jeff Delfield, librarian?? at Swain’s current Marianna Black Library in Bryson City, called everyone’s attention to what he almost poetically referred to as “this cloth and wood and metal underneath.”

With a pull, the cloak fell to reveal a sign announcing the “Future Home of the Marianna Black Library.” The sign let’s people know what to expect, what to get excited about if they so choose. 

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“The campaign right now is about awareness,” Bartlett had explained earlier. “I’m going to say that a lot.”

“One step at a time,” added Fontana Regional Library System Director Karen Wallace. 

That’s something else that will be repeated when discussing the library: it’s just a step.

“It’s a process, a little bit at a time,” said Don Davidson, who along with his wife, Toni, donated the property for the future library, “Today’s just another step in the process.”

After the sign unveiling, Davidson couldn’t conceal his excitement — “I think it’s spectacular” — even couched in small-step cautionary camouflage.

“It’s a little bit at a time,” he said, gazing up at the new library sign. “But this is a big step. People can see something is happing.”

That’s the idea. Proponents of a new library in Swain County are hoping that such a visual will inspire the community to strive forward with the vision. 

And, in particular, they are hoping that raising the awareness will inspire certain members of the community to take up the banner. 

“We hear that we have the support to build this library,” said Bartlett. “But it’s going to take more than saying ‘I support building this library’ to make it happen.”

Even with the Davidson’s gift of the property for a new facility, realizing a new library is an expensive venture. Estimates hover around a few million dollars, maybe more. 

That kind of endeavor will require political muscle. 

“At the end of the day,” Swain County Manager Kevin King said after the unveiling, “it’s going to take some sort of skin in the game from the commissioners.”

While commissioners —  as well as candidates vying for a seat on the board — seem to agree a new library would be a good thing, they have not been overly sunny when considering the project’s financial feasibility. 

But, the sign unveiling did turn out some local politicos. They were all smiles and optimism for the occasion. 

“We’ll make it happen, it’ll happen,” assured Commissioner David Monteith, who’s currently running for reelection.



The land, the library and the long road

The Marianna Black Library in Bryson City has served its community well for more than 40 years. The facility is what Swain County Librarian Jeff Delfield calls a “1960s library.”

But for years, there has been a growing push for a new library to serve the area. Proponents contend that more space is needed for community events, as well as more rooms for smaller gatherings. They point to a lack of adequate parking at the current library and the need for modernization.

In 2010, consultant Ron Lubberly conducted public input sessions and produced the Dubberly Report, putting the need for a new facility in tangible black and white. No one really disputed the report’s conclusion.

“Everyone to my face, with a handshake and a smile, is saying ‘I’m behind this, it’s needed.’ And it is needed,” Delfield said earlier this summer. “No one is picking up this Dubberly Report and saying, ‘nah, this is bunk.’”

But no one in an official capacity has sounded overly optimistic either. They have cited the lack of resources to take on such a project.

In May of this year, Don and Toni Davidson donated 9 acres of property on Fontana Road, just outside Bryson City, for a new library. They also kicked in $50,000 toward the construction of a new facility. 

It’s a dream they feel is worth funding 

“We saw the need,” said Don Davidson, after a large roadside sign was unveiled last week to mark the future site of the one-day library. 

The Davidsons are betting that the Swain community can muster the needed funds to build upon their generosity. 

“If Swain County could build the facility that we currently have back in 1969, Swain County can do even better for 2014,” said Toni Davidson. “If we can do it then, we can do it now.”

Swain County Manager Kevin King, also in attendance at the sign unveiling, said that building a new library would require “skin in the game” on the county’s part, likely in the form of some type of loan. 

“It just takes everybody pushing in the same direction,” King said, keeping it positive. “And that’s what this event is.”

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