Tynen: Cary doesn’t need a new library

July 12, 2013 

JEJ

Cary Town Council members are again suffering from the Edifice Complex: They are thinking of spending lots of money to build something, even if it may be obsolete before the doors open.

The council is considering moving the downtown library to a “spectacular” new building on Cary’s “opportunity site,” the 13 acres bounded by Academy, Park, Walker and Walnut streets.

One clue that this is a bad idea: Another option is to move the library over to the nearby post office, which is expected to close.

Um, why is it closing?

Council members may want to stop reading here, because I’ve got a spoiler alert: People are turning rapidly from paper to electronic media to communicate. They write letters less often – and increasingly they don’t read paper books. So there’s less need for a building whose main purpose is to store books.

By the time any new Cary library gets built, we may read books on smartphones or through Google glasses or who knows what else.

There may be a continued need for some public edifice to help residents access information, but for all we know, the current library building will be perfectly adequate for that purpose.

Yet the council has been fantasizing about a “spectacular” project.

Translate “spectacular” as “expensive.”

Just the proposed 125 parking spots could cost $20,000 each. At that price, the town could buy e-readers for about 36,231 residents.

So building an expensive library would be like constructing marble stables for Cary’s horses and buggies in 1909 – just as the first Model T cars rolled into town.

The kicker is that moving the library to the opportunity site would gobble up green space that would be gone forever.

At least one council member turned up her nose at the idea of sand volleyball courts at the opportunity site. But it’s more likely that future Cary residents will want to play volleyball in a downtown park than they’ll want to sit in a fancy building while turning the pages of antique paper books.

Jim Tynen lives in Cary and works as the communications director of the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.

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