There is a déjà vu quality to current deliberations about the future of the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives. In Pinehurst, one gets the feeling that when it comes to the Given Library’s future, we seem to always be going around in circles.
A study group examining the library situation to ensure its long-term survival recommended that the village government hire professional experts to study the matter. The village government has agreed to spend up to $25,000 for such a study, which would analyze space and facility use, programs, services, size needs and financing.
Such a study will have to deal with the persistent and vexing issue of the National Park Service (NPS) and its historic resistance to the library’s expansion at its present site. To conduct any study before that issue is resolved will be a complete waste of taxpayer money. No study should begin until the village and its citizens determine how to deal with the NPS.
To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a formal meeting held at NPS headquarters in Atlanta with village officials and representatives of the Given Library and Tufts Archives. I have never understood why village officials have neglected this obvious need. In business, success is usually achieved by building close working relationships. The NPS has not been contacted over many years of contention. The village has a very large staff and devoted elected officials, yet it has never established a close relationship with this important federal agency.
I believe that most residents of Pinehurst who use the library and Tufts Archives would prefer that it remain where it is, subject to needed expansion to accommodate population growth. The library has had architects design just such an expanded facility to achieve that goal. NPS has seen those plans. That practical design should be viewed by all who have an interest in the library’s future. It is not revolutionary or extreme, but modest in appearance. It extends the present building out to its property limits and does not exceed them. However, it does not allow for setbacks along the property borders but builds right up to the very edges. Such setbacks are irrelevant because the adjacent land cannot be built upon. It is to be preserved as part of the Village Green.
One can admire the NPS for seeking to preserve the Village Green, but one must question whether its imprimatur is worth the high price associated with enjoying its federal historic designation. Should a local library’s expansion decision, which will affect every Pinehurst resident, be subject to veto by bureaucrats with no stake in the game except following often arcane rules?
The NPS never objected to radical changes to facilities at the Country Club, including the construction of pools and water slides. Yet it finds fault with modest changes to our library. If NPS cannot be sanguine about a modified library expansion, the village should discontinue using the Historic Landmark designation. The designation has never been promoted by Pinehurst. Visitors are not flocking here because of it. It is an honor, surely, but perhaps it is time to return it to Uncle Sam with our thanks.
Until the NPS matter is resolved, no public funds should be spent to research the issue. It has been studied to death. If the NPS agrees to keep its hands off the library, then a study makes sense. Should it become a public library, continue as a private one, or be a hybrid can be fully evaluated.
Whatever is decided, the future of the Tufts Archives deserves extra careful consideration. As the former historian of the Pinehurst Country Club, I can attest to the value of the archives. It is a priceless research resource. It preserves rare Donald Ross architectural course drawings, thousands of historic photographs and important documents related to Pinehurst, the Tufts family, Donald Ross and its unique history as America’s premier golf resort.
Now all of that is well-protected. It is highly valued and utilized by golf writers, reporters, scholars, historians and students. It is sustained under the aegis of a unique person, Audrey Moriarty, who is both librarian and archivist. She has gathered a collection of volunteers who are devoted to the institution and to the Given Book Store, which raises funds for the operation, while providing good food and books to residents for low prices.
The village government has wisely put aside $1 million for future library expansion and has granted funds annually to help finance the Given and Tufts operations. That money should not be disturbed but held in abeyance until realistic plans for the institution are finalized.