Siler City library closed for repairs, leaving some needs unattended

In recent years, changes have come to county libraries as needs expand beyond books. Libraries have invested in resources on living safely and healthily, enmeshing their importance in the information age. 

But with the Wren Memorial Library in Siler City closed for four scheduled weeks of infrastructure repair, the county’s information needs are now stretched between two branches. 

“It’s a pretty big project, so that’s why the library had to be closed,” said Linda Clarke, director of the Chatham County Public Libraries. “It was something that was badly needed.”

The 50-year-old branch has been closed since July 29. Repairs include a new roof, interior ceiling, insulation, duct work, shelving and carpet cleaning. Mike Cowell, branch manager at Wren Memorial, said the work repairs damage left by flooding and heavy rains from the last hurricane.

New sexual violence helpline connects Chatham County to emergency resources

Chatham County launched a 24/7 crisis helpline for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors last month. 

The new helpline is a partnership between the nonprofit Second Bloom of Chatham and Chatham Family Violence Prevention Services. 

Renita Foxx, of Chatham Family Violence Prevention Services, said that the crisis line arose out of an immediate need. 

Before, Family Violence Rape Crisis, another nonprofit organization that began in 1982, operated a similar phone line. But, local government took over after FVRC discontinued its services in October 2018. The helpline went with it. “You cannot adequately provide services – domestic violence and sexual assault services – if you have no one for victims or survivors to turn to in terms of need,” Foxx said. “So, we came together and we designed the help/crisis line.” 

Cindy Perry, a board member of Second Bloom, said the nonprofit stepped in to provide the trained volunteers and knowledge of resources that had been offered by FVRC.

Given Chatham’s vast landscape, are library services accessible to all?

In Chatham County, where nearly 13 percent of the population is Hispanic and income inequality sequesters access to information to parts of the county, three library branches work to supplement the county’s literacy needs. 

Wren Memorial Library is located in Siler City. Chatham Community Library is in Pittsboro, and Goldston Library serves Goldston patrons. All three locations are within 30 minutes of each other, but this triangular network of facilities is hard to reach by the northeastern part of the county. 

Karen Howard, a member of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and liaison to the Library Advisory Committee, said pockets of poverty prevent equal access to the library. 

“The library continues to be one of those resources that is a potential benefit,” Howard said. Volunteering as a literacy mentor at Virginia Cross Elementary, Howard said libraries can be ideal for students with no native English speakers at home or for those who underperform with literacy in their native language. “It’s sad that people that need access to literacy tools and reading tools are the people that have the most challenge getting to it,” Howard said. 

This barrier to county libraries that Howard describes pertains not just to language but to transportation, too. 

Just consider this map showing the wide distances between them:

Map created by Charlotte Ririe/Our Chatham

A Hispanic Community Needs Assessment spearheaded by the Latino Migration Project and the Hispanic Liaison in Siler City, collected a series of complaints filed by members of the community.