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Muni Library going metro

If all goes as planned — not that there is yet a plan per se — later this year the Charleston County Main Public Library will be showing films and satellite video broadcasts in its 200-seat auditorium in high-definition video and digital surround sound. There's even a good chance Charleston opera fans will be able to get in on the new live simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera's programming it began last season in a couple hundred movie cinemas in the U.S. and Canada. As we reported last week, that unlikely seeming project met with remarkable success out of the box, and the Met will expand the number of participating venues in the coming season. At 75 Calhoun St., Friend of the Library member Sara Breibart wants to put the CCPL on the Met's map. The only obstacle at the moment: the project's estimated cost is somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000.

"The whole thing is sort of driven by the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts," explains Kevin Crothers, head of the Media Services Department at the library. "Sara is a firecracker; she programs a lot of successful film stuff here, especially for the senior set. She's really the one behind it. And Sara has a way of making things happen," he chuckles. "She tends to get what she wants."

Crothers observes that upgrading the auditorium will have benefits well beyond allowing it to host live opera broadcasts. "We show a lot of films. It'd be great to have them in hi-def and surround sound. Once we have the infrastructure to do other things, who knows what we'll do. We've talked about possibly creating an independent film festival. If the equipment is in there, it'll be used, definitely."

Crothers also notes that upgrading to hi-def is not simply a matter of choice but of necessity: The last analog television signal will fizzle out on Feb. 16, 2009. After that, federal law requires all U.S. television broadcasts to be exclusively digital.

"Everything's gotta to be hi-def within a year or so anyway, because of that. We'll also have to upgrade our satellite receiver to make it compatible."

So where might $10K come from? The county's coffers? The city's? A bake sale?

"Well, the meeting rooms here all have plaques outside their doors acknowledging the 'sponsors' of the rooms," Crothers ruminates, slyly. "And currently, the auditorium's official name is simply 'the main auditorium.' Let's just say Sara's exploring all potential funding possibilities." —Patrick Sharbaugh

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