Friday, March 16, 2018

The Greenville Public Library is Not Free

The Greenville County Library System was founded in 1921 with 500 volumes in a vacant storage room on East Coffee Street. Today, there are 11 library branches, a bookmobile, and a website which provide free access to resources and experiences. Except it’s not free if you choose to visit the Hughes branch, which also happens to be the Main library.

Hughes was constructed in 2002, and at the same time the adjacent parking deck was built. It serves the library as well as the Children's Museum of the Upstate, Greenville County Museum of Art, and the Greenville Little Theater. Although owned by Greenville County, the parking deck/garage is managed by Lanier Parking Solutions, and the rates are as follows: 0-15 minutes free, 16-30 minutes for $0.50, $0.50 for each additional 30 minutes and a maximum of $4.00 per day. Parking is free on weekends, after 5:00pm on weekdays, and for vehicles with handicapped tags.

The then-spokesman for Greenville County (when Greenville Online ran a Q&A about the parking situation in 2014) Bob Mihalic stated "If the parking was free at Heritage Green then many of the people working nearby would take up the free parking spots at the Green early in the day."  "It's an attempt to create a deterrent, to discourage people who work downtown from taking spaces and they're not darkening the door of any of our institutions on Heritage Green," said Beverly James, executive director of the Greenville County Library System.

That makes absolutely no sense.

The ‘people working downtown’ work business hours, meaning they leave after 5pm – and therefore park for free. It’s the ‘people visiting downtown’ who are footing the bill, people like the parents bringing their children to the ‘free’ programs at the library, visiting the ‘free’ Museum of Art, or those paying the $19 and up (price calculated for one adult and one child) admission at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate.

But “it's free for the first 15 minutes… which means library users can drop off a book or other borrowed item in the pull-through boxes or even park and run in for a reserved item without having to pay the parking fee,” James said.

Well then.

As a mother of three children I declare it just about impossible to park, unpack the kids, ‘run in’ for our reserved items, check out, return to my car, buckle everyone in, and make it out in under 15 minutes.

It doesn’t help that the clock on the ticket machine is consistently slow, and the clock at the pay booth is fast… Meaning when I pull in the ticket is stamped three minutes before the time on my cell but when I pull out it is 2 minutes after – meaning I’m already out 5 minutes, despite having just pulled into the lot.

And there is only the one way out. So chances are you’ll hit a line upon exiting, and as the booth accepts cash, check, credit cards and probably bitcoin, each patron takes on average 1 or 2 minutes to pay and exit. On a recent visit (March 15th at approximately 1pm) I spent a record 6.5 minutes out of my vehicle (yes, I timed it), a sprint from the car into the library and back out…

But I was charged $1. For the pleasure of sitting in my car 20 minutes. And for the 5 minutes to make up the time difference in the two clocks. Yes, and those 6.5 minutes it took to check out the books I had on hold.

What’s interesting is that there were coin-operated parking meters in the lot behind what is now the Children’s Museum back when it was the main library, so there is a history of paid parking in the area.

Must have been nice, only paying for the time you were parked, and not the time you were waiting in line to pay for parking.

One dollar, it may not seem like much. But I’m at the library two or three times per week. That’s over $100 a year, and while I would be happy to put that money towards new books, or headphones for the computers, or supplies for children’s programming – the money collected at the Heritage Green deck is used for the upkeep and maintenance of the deck itself, according to Mr. Mihalic.

So there was that time that I was headed back to my car on a rainy day, and I slipped in the mud puddle at the pedestrian entrance to the deck and landed on my tailbone. You know, the place the water has been pooling for the last three years, that is wet even when the Upstate is in drought. The one my children walk through every. single. time. we go to the library. Yes, I’ve reported it, especially after paying fines to replace books that were destroyed when they fell in the puddle on my errant slip.

There’s also the poison-ivy infested strip of ‘landscaping’ behind the garage, the lower floor corner used as a gathering place for ‘people working downtown’ on their lunch break, the constant litter… Yes, the upkeep and maintenance of the deck is definitely getting the attention it deserves.

Our solution is to park a little further away and get some exercise lugging our borrowed books to and fro. However this seems to be the solution for all the employees at the various Heritage Green institutions who also have to pay (a monthly fee) to use the parking deck, as the streets behind the garage are routinely full; we often end up parking more than ¼ mile away.

I wonder what the residents of the Heritage Historic District think about the glut of cars lining the already-narrow Barrett Street and Central Avenue.

And then there is the matter of safety. Pedestrians coming from the residential district either have to circle all the way around to Atwood, or they have to take the pedestrian 'walkway' from the corner of Marshall and Barrett. These stripes on the road wind through the parking lot access roads on which drivers regularly speed in their hurry to beat the 15 minute parking limit. Get in a little extra exercise, dodging the cars coming around the blind corner of the garage, in a race to get to the sidewalk…

I love the library. I think it is a great asset for the City of Greenville. But when I’ve raised the issue of parking with the library, I’ve been directed to call Lanier Parking Solutions. It is not correct that library patrons are held ransom to a parking situation with all the problems listed in this article. Worse yet, after contacting the library and Lanier Parking, there is no recourse available.

I would be glad to hear any comments on your experiences with the parking at the Heritage Green parking deck.

Oh, have any Parking Questions?
Contact Lanier Parking Solutions at 864-240-8146.


  1. This raises some good points. I wonder if the SC Department of Weights and Measures would audit the fraudulent clock situation. But it would seem that one real solution would be to extend the free time to 30 minutes.

    1. I would imagine that might be an acceptable compromise to many, or even a '1st hour free' arrangement as with all the garages and street parking downtown.

  2. I am so glad you have tackled this problem, Liene! I have had the experience of waiting a full 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot, when an event/ meeting ended at the same time as I headed to my car. There was nothing I could do, as each of about 40 cars attempted to back up into a stalled line and pay.
    But the Five Forks Library opens next week! That might be worth the drive!

    1. Isn't is scary to contemplate Woodruff Drive over Heritage Green?! I know we're not the only ones who have gotten stuck in the parking lot line, and I've yet to discover if there is rhyme or reason to the times/days of the week when it happens so that I can avoid it.


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