New proposed library in Pender County is asking for the public’s help

Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 8:41 AM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - As more people call Southeastern North Carolina home, the region is quickly trying to ramp up infrastructure to keep up with the growth. Everything from more housing to upgraded roads is in need. Now, one county is focused on a different kind of growth, which is expanding its public library system.

Pender County has two public libraries, one in Burgaw and Hampstead. But, the Hampstead location is becoming too small to handle the popular destination near the coast.

The county is asking for your opinion on what to do with the existing library in Hampstead, either rebuild or renovate. As more people move in it’s causing hardships for the library from crammed shelves to overcrowded children’s programs.

One option for the proposed library is to renovate and expand the existing library in Hampstead. The other option would be to build a whole new facility next to the Pender County government annex, which is a bit farther south on 17, closer to 210.

No matter which option is chosen, the size of the new, larger library would be the same at either location.

The director of the Pender County Libraries says the need for a larger space in Hampstead is apparent just based on how often books are requested there.

“When you look at the statistics between the two locations, Burgaw and Hampstead, we transfer books back and forth all the time. But about 80% of those are traveling from Burgaw to Hampstead to fulfill requests over there. So, that just shows you that they don’t have enough books there,” said Allen Phillips-Bell, director of Pender County Libraries.

That Hampstead and Topsail Beach area have a larger and more concentrated population within Pender County compared to the more rural areas. With more people in one compact area, you have a lot more people using the Hampstead location in comparison to the Burgaw branch.

It’s a project that’s been a long time coming, but the environment may be just right to finally move forward.

“We’ve been trying to do this since 2009. We got started back in 2010 or so and then with the downturn in the economy, the county decided that it wasn’t the right moment,” said Phillips-Bell.

Since 2009 when the idea began, a non-profit called the Topsail Township Friends of the Library has raised about $500,000 to contribute to the project. The county will provide the rest of the funds.

Below is a statement from the county on how the public can share their opinion:

“To gather public opinion, a survey is available both in paper form at the Hampstead Branch Library (75 Library Drive) and the Main Library in Burgaw (103 S. Cowan Street) and online at The survey will be open from July 20th to August 20th.

In addition, there will be two public information sessions at the Hampstead Branch Library on Tuesday, August 8th at 6p.m. and on Saturday, August 19th at 10:30a.m. These sessions will provide attendees the opportunity to ask questions and to learn additional details about the two locations under consideration.”