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October 27,  2010

Plan calls for major growth
of county library network

Building seven new libraries -- including one in cyberspace -- and significantly renovating five existing facilities at a total cost upwards of $75.9 million are envisioned in an ambitious long-range plan.

New construction would cost between an estimated $32.1 million and $33.6 million in today's dollars and renovations would run between $43.8 million and $47.7 million between now and 2030 under a master plan presented to County Council. The plan follows on one adopted in 1990 which Anne Farley, general manager of the Department of Community Services, said will be successfully implemented when libraries in Claymont and south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, now in the planning stage, are built. The 13-page plan drafted by Himmel & Wilson, a national library consulting firm, is "intended to provide a blueprint for the future that will ensure that all residents ... will have outstanding access to public library services for many years to come," its introduction declares.

The plan calls for setting up a "virtual branch" library on a county server which would provide continuous remote electronic access to such things as reference databanks, downloadable audio and e-books and social networking contact. One of the plan's stated goals is giving patrons "high-speed access to the digital world with no unnecessary restrictions or fees." While Farley told a Council committee on Oct. 26 that its adoption of the plan in December would merely provide her department with a blueprint, she said implementation could begin as soon as 2014 with planning for a regional library south of the canal and a community library in Middletown. Priority, she said, would be given to establishing a community library in the Route 9 corridor southeast of Wilmington.

Projects undertaken under the plan, Farley said, would be financed roughly in thirds by county and state governments and private contributions. "Libraries have traditionally been built in areas where [community] advocacy has been strong," she added.

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