County wants to move forward on library plans

The Ector County Library, 321 W. Fifth St.

Ector County Commissioners this week expressed support for forming an advisory library committee that would help determine whether the county should build a new library or upgrade their current facility. They also indicated supporting the hiring of a consulting firm to help develop a strategic plan for the library.

During Tuesday’s commissioners’ court, Judge Debi Hays said the commission will vote on the advisory committee proposal in October and possibly the hiring of the consulting firm.

“I think this is an excellent idea for the board to consider,” Judge Debi Hays said. “There’s no question our library has been overlooked for a very long time.

“It’s time for us to move on this issue.”

Randy Ham, chairman of the county’s current five-person ad-hoc library committee, asked commissioners to consider establishing a more formal advisory committee.

An advisory committee would be more structured and have actual responsibilities like reviewing library staffing, traffic and programming issues and report back to commissioners, Ham said. The committee would also add more members and conduct regular meetings.

Ham said he proposed the new advisory committee because he and other members of the ad-hoc committee felt more people in the community need to have input in the library’s ultimate fate.

“It’s too big of an issue for just five people to decide,” Ham said.

The ad-hoc committee is also recommending that the county hire Virginia-based Ivy Group Consultants to help the county develop a strategic plan for the library.

The company, one of three firms that bid on the job, would be paid $60,000-$70,000 and would look at the costs and practicality of building a new library or renovating the current library, Ham said.

Friends of the Library will contribute $25,000 to the hiring of the consulting firm, and the county would be asked to cover the rest, Ham said.

Several commissioners verbally expressed support for hiring a consultant.

There are several pros and cons for both options, Ham said.

The current library is “antiquated,” physically deteriorating and would require a sizeable investment to upgrade, he said.

“It’s a model based in the 1980s,” Ham said. “It’s filled with a lot of outdated books and materials.”

It also lacks adequate meeting and classroom space, Ham added.

One of the biggest challenges facing construction of a new library, is “where do we put it?” Ham said.

Another challenge is “to dispel the myth that libraries are no longer needed,” Ham said.