Morrison renovations much welcomed

Staff members at the Morrison Regional Library in SouthPark are excited about upcoming renovations that will create more space for group meetings, improve parking and make the facility more user-friendly.

The Morrison Regional Library will get millions of dollars in improvements starting in the next few years, assuming the bond package is approved by voters.

The Morrison Regional Library will get millions of dollars in improvements starting in the next few years, assuming the bond package is approved by voters.

Mecklenburg County residents will soon vote on a bond package that includes $8.8 million in renovations for the library. Those renovations include an extra 4,000 square feet of space that will allow for more group meeting rooms; a community room with smartboards and 200 seats instead of the current 65; more space for children’s programs; a change in where customers park and more parking spaces; a book return box that empties into the library instead of the current mailbox-type structure that requires staff to cart books into the library from outside; technology plug-ins and ports at each station instead of the current drop cord and surge protector being used in the adult study area; sound-proofing between the children’s area and the adult study area; and an improved teen area and storage space.

Another improvement will be to the air-conditioning system. The library currently has individual units spaced throughout the facility, but temperatures this week got so high that one computer lab had to be shut down.

“We knew significant renovations were needed,” said David Singleton, director of libraries, during a tour of the facility on Tuesday, July 2. With the project moving up the capital improvement list, Singleton said the library will get to make the needed improvements without having to just do the usual patchwork that’s happened recently. Right now, the library is “doing the best we can with the space we have,” Singleton said.

The Morrison project was ranked 43rd on the list of planned projects, behind $738 million in other spending, but skyrocketed into the first round of bond projects after some commissioners threatened that, without more projects in north and south Mecklenburg on the bond package, the bonds were unlikely to get the support of the suburbs and south Charlotte when it comes time to vote. South County Regional also will get renovations, but not until the last year of the bond packages.

Officials at Morrison welcome the change and are excited about the chance to be more flexible for customers’ needs. The library system has seen cutbacks in funding and hours since the recession, with some facilities shuttered.

The system is slowly starting to increase hours.

If the bond is approved, Singleton said planning with architects will start in fiscal year 2015, which could mean the summer of that year. Construction would start the following year, and would mean the Morrison branch would be shut down for as much as a year. Library officials currently are looking for other locations in the SouthPark area where they could offer some of the services offered at Morrison while the work takes place.

Each library in the system is different, said Susan Green, the Morrison branch manager. Morrison has become popular with families and young children, and 60 percent of circulation is related to children’s books, Green said.

The library’s “storytime” program is the second-most popular in the system behind Uptown’s ImaginOn, and Morrison has already seen 250,000 visits this year.

Green hopes to expand space for the storytime program and possibly see sections in the children’s area broken down into age group. Green said the library hopes to continue the storytime program at whatever temporary spot is selected when construction is taking place, otherwise customers will be directed to other area branches.

Find more information about the library and current programs being offered at the system’s website, www.cmlibrary.org.

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