Not only is Carver Community Center not experiencing the turnaround it was touting as recently as November, but last week it abruptly shut its doors, leaving the Hamilton Hill library branch without a home and the people it served in the lurch. Thanks for the warning, guys.
Now it’s up to the county library system to find another site for the branch or another way to provide materials and programs until an already-planned new facility on State Street is finished, which could take a year or more.
Library Director Karen Bradley is leaning toward the second approach. But first she will seek the community’s ideas — about both a short-term solution and the new State Street branch — through an outreach program. She plans to start that effort immediately in the new year with the help of the county Human Rights Commission.
The former Hamilton Hill branch was well used and badly needed. It offered books and DVDs, which were in great demand, and eight or nine computers, which were in constant use. Many poor families can’t afford to buy books, go to the movies or pay for a computer and Internet connection. And while the Duane and Mont Pleasant branches are fairly close (two-thirds of a mile and 1.2 miles, respectively), that’s still a long way for older adults without transportation and younger kids. The central branch downtown is even more distant, with more busy streets to cross.
We’re not talking about great costs, or savings, here. The Hamilton Hill branch was open only 16 hours a week with two staffers, and the rent paid to Carver was $1,500 a month.
It should be possible to use that money and personnel in other ways, whether it’s taking over an empty storefront on Albany Street or hooking up with some nonprofit organization like Hamilton Hill’s Art Center or Girls Inc. Or utilizing school libraries, perhaps offering after-school and weekend programs there. Or getting an old bus or van and turning it into a bookmobile. Or turning old shipping containers or kiosks into pop-up libraries, as is being done in some urban areas.
Use this as an opportunity to do something imaginative, to attract new users rather than lose old ones. Also use it as a spur to make sure the new library gets done quickly, and has the resources and programs, especially literacy programs, that the people of this neighborhood so badly need.