I am writing to voice my support for a new consolidated library/media center [“Reading Rooms: Community Debates Buncombe Library Plan,” Sept. 1, Xpress]. I had previously written to the Buncombe County commissioners saying, “Please do not change a thing about these two precious sites.” However, I have listened to friends, done some dreaming of my own and as a former school counselor here in the Valley for 23 years, I have changed my mind.
I truly love both the Black Mountain and Swannanoa libraries and use them both. My grandsons adore visiting the one in their neighborhood in Grovemont, and I utilize the one in Black Mountain. However, if I actually “think” about what our community needs, I have to think outside the box and dream. Here is what I would like to see develop:
• A beautiful new library at the corner of Old Highway 70 and Lake Eden Road that would be on the bus line for easier access to a larger number of people and also easily accessible via walking for students of Owen Middle and Owen High for after-school and weekend internet and educational activities.
• A facility that would embrace the digital age, as that is where the future lies. Even if broadband internet comes to more rural communities, I question whether everyone has the means to purchase their own devices. If our students do not have access on equal footing as others in the county, then we are not serving them adequately. For children and adults alike who are on the lower socioeconomic end, the library/media center will serve as the main source of access to the world via the web.
• A facility that could house meeting rooms for students working on team projects, for adults hosting book club discussions, for after-school tutoring sessions, etc.
• A facility with plenty of parking for those who can drive there. Our current locations are totally landlocked, and parking is extremely limited.
• Perhaps a facility with a coffee/tea area.
• A facility with a new and adventurous playground area that is accessible to all.
• Renovated facilities at the current Black Mountain and Swannanoa libraries that could be used either as expanded community and/or senior centers.
After living and working in the Valley since 1990, I have long advocated for our children, youths and families to receive the same quality of services that other districts in our county receive. I have witnessed funds and programs consistently being given to the wealthier Reynolds and Roberson districts while the Owen district has been viewed as “the red-haired stepchild,” even though this is rarely acknowledged publicly.
Our community deserves all that the others have. It is up to each of us to embrace the future, even if it means change. If we choose not to do so in a proactive manner, change will then embrace us — whether or not we have planned for it, and therein, my friends, lies the challenge.
— Kitty R. Kelly
Retired school counselor
C.D. Owen High and Community High School