As a longtime Given Book Store volunteer, I was greatly interested in reading the thoughtful views of Jack Farrell, a local resident who keeps well-abreast of civic issues.
His Jan. 21 Pilot opinion piece, headlined “Joint Pinehurst Effort Needed for a New Library,” raised many important points. “The decision in 1996 not to create a municipal public library sentenced Pinehurst to 22 years of a struggle to provide library services to a rapidly expanding village,” he wrote.
Farrell believes Pinehurst should “bite the bullet and either add a significant addition to the proposed new community center design to include the space and design for a true public library, or find a site and build a new public library itself.”
When the Southern Pines Library was built, I regretted that the two communities hadn’t taken a regional approach to solving their library needs and built a large library to serve both municipalities. Since that modern public library opened, a significant number of its users have been residents of Pinehurst, who pay a nominal annual fee to join. I belong but seldom use it, preferring the much more convenient Given.
A new Pinehurst public library, or the enlargement of the present private one, is not a new issue. How best to serve readers has been a subject of high interest ever since Pinehurst was created by James Walker Tufts. Once his resort opened, visitors asked to have a library. By 1902, a circulating library of 1,200 books was in operation. The fee to borrow a book: 2 cents a day.
Pinehurst’s library issue is complex. It involves the National Park Service, the village government, and citizens of Pinehurst, including loyal library users. The first question to be answered is, should the picturesque and convenient Village Green continue as the community’s library location? I hope it will. To do so, it must expand to meet future needs.
Excellent architectural renderings at the Tufts Archives show what an enlarged library might look like. The problem with those sensible plans is that the National Park Service is not sanguine about the Given Library expanding.
That raises the next big question: Is the Federal Landmark designation, which is monitored by the National Park Service, of real value to Pinehurst? I now believe it has outlived its usefulness. The village does little to promote it. No one comes to Pinehurst because we have it. The few historic buildings and landscaped areas worthy of preservation can be protected by a well-managed local Historic Preservation Commission.
Can the library board and village officials have it both ways — enlarge and yet keep the landmark? That could be achieved by expanding upward by adding another floor to the building. Is that feasible? Only architects and construction experts can tell. There is one immutable fact: Pinehurst’s population has continued to grow, while the Given and Tufts Archives have not.
Meanwhile, the village is thinking of spending about $4.1 million for a 18,000-square-foot community/recreation center — money perhaps better spent to save and nourish an expanded Given Library and Tufts Archives.
Pinehurst’s well-educated public deserves to have a first-class library. When the Given was built, back in 1964, it was funded by a generous $400,000 contribution from Sarah Given Larson, the daughter of John and Irene Heinz Given. Richard Tufts donated the land upon which the library stands. He also donated $450,000 in 1974 to build the foyer and large room for documents that are the Tufts Archives.
Some suggest keeping the Tufts Archives in the present Given Library building, while moving the Given Library to another location, perhaps as part of the proposed Recreation Center. The librarian/archivist is now located in the same building. Dividing the functions would practically require two people to do what one now does with great efficiency.
Another question to be answered: Should the private Given become a public library operated with taxpayer dollars? It is now funded by a modest endowment, donations, village contributions, user fees and profits from the Given Book Store. And if it becomes a public library, would all the volunteers become town employees, thus increasing taxes?
If the Tufts Archives were to operate alone in the Given Library building, after the library was moved to another site, could it be sustained financially? The loss of the archives could hurt the world of golf in myriad ways. It is a national resource that serves as an invaluable publicity resource for Pinehurst village, Pinehurst Resort and neighboring golf resorts.
It preserves priceless golf artifacts, including correspondence and architectural drawings of golf architect Donald Ross. The golf industry and the Donald Ross Society rely upon it to preserve important history. It is a unique tourist attraction for lovers of golf.
My recommendation: Establish a blue-ribbon committee of at least a dozen highly qualified Pinehurst citizens, professionals and library users to thoughtfully study the various options of the Given/Tufts matter. Give it a budget to hire experts if needed. Do it now, before building a proposed and costly community/recreation center. Time is of the essence.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.