Given Memorial painting

Workers spruced up the Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst this spring with a fresh coat of paint. The library first opened in 1964.

Pinehurst’s Village Council has been noncommittal thus far in discussions of a potential new library, but leaders of the Given Memorial LIbrary and Tufts Archives are hoping to accelerate that conversation.

The village is now in the process of considering whether or not it should build a municipal library, where such a facility might be located, and how much construction and operation would cost.

Over the last few years, the privately owned Given Memorial Library has arrived at the conclusion that, between financial and physical constraints, it can’t continue serving Pinehurst residents as it has done for more than 50 years.

Earlier this summer, the Village Council decided to move forward with surveying 400 people to gather a representative sample of what Pinehurst residents want in a 21st century library.

The stakes have now been raised on moving toward a village-owned-and operated library. In a new letter with more than 80 signatures from library supporters, staff, and current and former board members, Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives has offered its entire library collection along with half of its $2 million endowment to get the village started.

“We urge the Village of Pinehurst to address these issues now, and without delay,” the letter reads. “There is a significant risk that the current library and archives will fail in the not-so-distant future due to lack of sufficient private funding.”

Those who signed the letter are exhorting the village to commit to taking full fiscal responsibility for library services in Pinehurst, separate from the Tufts Archives.

“We know that Given/Tufts has written to the village offering half its endowment, and all of its library collection and other library assets, as a gift to the residents of Pinehurst if the village will take fiscal responsibility for library services,” the letter reads.

“We think that residents should know of this substantial gift. This seems like an important piece of information for Pinehurst residents as they make up their minds about the library. What other village of our size can open a new library with a seven-figure endowment and a gift of more than 15,000 titles? Only in Pinehurst.”

The letter is published in full on page B2 of today’s edition of The Pilot.

“Since 1996, off and on, expansion and growth has reared its ugly head. But never before has it been so profoundly necessary,” said Audrey Moriarty, executive director of Given Memorial Library and the Tufts Archives.

Moriarty, as the organization’s head librarian and archivist, heads a group of four full-time employees and a handful of part-timers between the library, the archives, and the Given Book Shop.

“Right now, all I hear is what we don’t do and what we don’t do right. There’s not much we can do. We’ve been as innovative as we can.”

The Given Memorial Library opened in 1964 in memory of John L. and Irene Heinz Given. The Tufts Archives was built in 1973 with an endowment from the Tufts Family Foundation, adding a museum of Pinehurst and golf to the library building. The archive holds a trove of documents and artifacts chronicling Pinehurst’s history, the growth of golf locally and the work of Donald Ross as the nation’s early premier course designers.

Since Given opened 56 years ago, Pinehurst’s population has grown more than 10 times what it was then, and the library faces far greater demand from families with school-aged children. The village realized in the 1990s that the needs of Pinehurst had outgrown the privately operated library’s capacity, and discussions have periodically surfaced over the last 20 years about the need for a solution.

The letter notes that and compliments the village for its recent work to advance the subject of a municipal library.

“This issue has arisen on several occasions since at least the early 1990s,” the letter reads. “But the current mayor, council and staff in just a few months have moved the ball further than any others, and we salute and encourage your progress.”

At the beginning of the year, the village brought a national library consulting firm on board to assess Pinehurst’s library needs through public input and stakeholder interviews. The ensuing report was presented to the Village Council in April. It suggested a facility more than three times the size of Given Memorial, that could cost between $5 million and $8 million, depending on its features and location. Several potential sites have been identified.

The Village Council wasn’t entirely satisfied with the methodology behind that report though, though, and commissioned a broader survey of residents.

Mayor John Strickland said this past week that the survey has been completed, and the Village Council should be reviewing the responses in the next 30 days.

“We wanted to get some further information very specific to what library services are most important among Pinehurst citizens. That wasn’t clear in the earlier study that we received,” said Strickland.

“A questionnaire was created that was very specific to the types of services that Pinehurst residents want; not what they have today necessarily, but what services they want and what are the most important ones for them.”

Pinehurst’s leaders have had the plight of the Given Memorial Library and the Tufts Archives in mind all along as they’ve discussed the potential for a municipal library. Strickland said that the library made the offer of its collection and part of its endowment to the village earlier this year.

“We’re very interested in what they have to offer but we haven’t gotten to that point yet because we need to first assess the results of the survey on specific uses,” he said.

“Going back three or four years, the council and the library board and village staff entered into a kind of study group to assess the financial implications of the current model that the library and archives have, which is essentially relying on private donors and the endowment. Everybody’s understood that model is not going to be operable for much longer.”

The library’s normal hours, closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays, leave a limited window of time for parents to bring children after school or work. To make room for new books, old ones have to be sold or sent out on long-term loan. The library has a single publicly available computer — Moriarty says there’s nowhere to put more, even if they were donated — and popular programs are standing room only.

Within its capacity, Moriarty said that the Given Memorial Library has provided an array of services. One employee is a notary, and several are certified to administer college exams to distance-learning students in the UNC system. They’ve even helped visually impaired patrons set up their personal computing devices.

“In general, we’re just full to the gills,” said Moriarty. “We do lots of things like that with a very small staff. We can’t do more because everybody’s already very busy and we all do everything.”

The library announced plans for a $4.6 million expansion in 2012. Pinehursrt pledged $1 million toward the project at the time, but the library was never able to successfully raise the rest of the funds. That pledge has since reverted back to the village and sits in a reserve account.

Pinehurst has contributed to the Given Memorial Library operations all along. Its current annual pledge of $150,000 accounts for just under 20 percent of the library’s budget.

Since their establishment, the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives have served two largely disparate audiences. Moriarty said that last year the archives had visitors from 44 states and 13 nations.

“The rest of the world knows more about the Tufts Archives than Pinehurst does,” she said. “Locals come; if they have company the first thing they do is bring them over here. They come and have a little walk-through, so the Tufts Archives are sort of on a lot of people's list of things to show off.

“But then we have golf course architects, golf aficionados, members of other clubs who come and research. It’s people who are very interested in golf and people who are very interested in the history of Pinehurst.”

As longtime supporters of the library and archives have passed away, younger residents haven’t always taken their place — especially as many assume that the library must have full public funding behind it.

That has left the library’s staff in an almost constant fundraising mode and left the organization to withdraw from its endowment at a level that’s not sustainable long-term. Now the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a blow, as it has to many nonprofits, by forcing the cancellation of large social fundraising events.

Hence the decision to offer half of its endowment and its 15,000 titles to a village-led venture.

With the staff, building and remaining resources focused on the Tufts Archives alone, the archives could develop into a fully-fledged golf museum with a few minor tweaks to the interior.

But that can’t be considered until the village takes the lead in providing a library for its residents.

“I think if one needed to, there are lots of golf entities that would get on board to help. I think the resort would be interested in supporting it,” Moriarty said. “They’ve expressed some potential interest but they’re not going to do anything or make any kind of move, if they do, until the Village of Pinehurst has made a decision.”

That decision is unlikely to come before the village figures out where a new library might be built or before they’ve explored the full financial ramifications of constructing and operating it.

“Whether or not the village should take over the provision of library services to residents is the decision the council has to make,” Strickland said. “We haven’t decided we should, we haven’t decided we should not. We’re evaluating all the aspects of what Pinehurst residents want and the implications for the village in the future should we take over the library.”

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