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Chapel Hill names new library director

A former Carrboro library branch manager will return to the area in May to lead the newly expanded Chapel Hill Public Library, town officials announced Monday.

Susan Brown will start her new job May 20. She currently is the marketing director for the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas, where she also worked as the adult services librarian. Previously, she managed the Carrboro Cybrary, was a reference librarian at the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh, and a library assistant Virginia Commonwealth University's Cabell Library and the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

“We can expect to see a new library director who will be creating new connections and partnerships across the community for engagement as our library transforms for the digital age and as a center for civic communication,” Town Manager Roger Stancil said in a news release Monday.

Brown is a UNC aluma with a master's degree in library science. She also has a bachelor's degree in history from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Interim Library Director Mark Bayles has led the library since September, when former library Director Kathy Thompson retired. He is now overseeing the library’s move back from University Mall to its renovated 63,000-square-foot space off Estes Drive. The $16.2 million library will open in a few weeks.

Town away from town

After speaking with Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny, owners of some of the oldest businesses in the downtown area and a local broker-in-charge, it became evident the town's move to the future Zebulon Municipal Complex, just a mile up the road, might not hinder downtown business — it might even make it better.

Steve Bock, of Parrish Realty, hinted to the fact that the downtown area already has some small town charm about it, and that taking official business, traffic, etc., out of that area may truly shine light on the aspects that make it a cozy place for walking and shopping. The absence of police sirens, for example, can give off a totally different impression for those looking to shop or do business in the area.

Knightdale may not be the best example, as its "downtown" area is primarily located on one strip of road, First Street, but the "downtown" government officials report to is on the other side of the highway. The true downtown is left for hair salons, florists, niche markets. It seems these days more people lean toward that window-shopping atmosphere one can no longer find in many urban locations. 

The two blocks of refined retail stores and restaurants in Wendell are prime examples of such an atmosphere. Sure, the police still report to the downtown area, but on the external rim of the downtown block, and although there may be a fair amount of crime there in comparison to Zebulon, the in-town area is so open it seems less crime takes place in town — more traffic citations than anything else. 

Zebulon businesses say elbow room is the key to downtown becoming that appealing historical district. The need for places to commune is at a high in an area where such space is scarce. Through overlay districts, however, the town could create an area in which to impose rules to keep beautification up, even if downtown business were to expand east to west into what is currently residential in nature. Matheny said this is a possibility, and just like it has up to this point, officials will do what must be done to keep downtown appealing and a place people want to visit.






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