03/21/07 — Fremont library branch on list

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Fremont library branch on list

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 21, 2007 1:54 PM

The Fremont library will remain open, but it must make several changes or it will be closed by the end of June, the county library system's board of trustees said.

The northern Wayne County library is the smallest of the five branches, which include Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Pikeville and Seven Springs. Space limitations prevent the library from expanding its programs and providing more books and computers for the community, Wayne County Public Library Director Jane Rustin said.

But about 15 Fremont town officials and residents argued during the Wayne County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday that the small amount of resources available at the library are vital to the community and the library's board should consider keeping the town's branch open long after June.

Fremont Town Administra-tor Kerry McDuffie told commissioners that the library board had originally considered closing the town's library last October because of "a lack of usage."

Then, the library board voted during its February meeting to close the facility this month. Residents said the library's closure would prevent several Fremont children from having access to books and the Internet.

The library board voted last Friday that it would postpone the closure of the Fremont branch until June 30. During that time, the library board will appoint a committee consisting of board trustees and residents to create a list of specific improvements needed for the building.

A timeline for the completion of improvements and a series of benchmarks will be created to monitor the usage of the library as well, the library board decided.

McDuffie said the town is willing to make any necessary changes, but Fremont might need up to $30,000 in county funds to help with improvement costs.

Although the commissioners have discussed providing the entire library system with a large appropriation in the next several years, the board did not make a decision on McDuffie's request.

Ms. Rustin said part of the library board's decision to move Fremont's operations to the nearby Pikeville branch was because of the Fremont library's inadequate size.

She added that the library board wants each branch to provide enough space to expand programs for children and to offer more computers for Internet access, which might not be possible at the current location but could happen at a larger branch.

A few years ago, the library board hired a consultant to study the entire library system, including its growth and how to accommodate the public's future needs.

That study contributed to a capital improvement plan that calls for a new 13,000-square-foot library in northern Wayne, a new 20,000-square-foot library in the southern part of the county and expansions to the main branch in Goldsboro.

If the county's demographics change in the next five to 10 years, Ms. Rustin said the board could build another library in the Grantham area instead of expanding the Goldsboro branch.

During the commissioners' retreat on Jan. 26, the board considered a possible $12 million allocation to the library system in the 2009 fiscal year as a part of the county's preliminary capital improvement plan.

If the commissioners follow through and allocate that amount, Ms. Rustin said it would pay for the proposed construction and renovations, which carry an estimated price tag of $10 million.

"With the full service we want to provide, that will mean more computers and more programs, which will require more staff," Ms. Rustin said.

But she added that the library system will also need to show its worth to the community. Ms. Rustin said she hopes to reach more people and to let them know that Wayne County libraries are places where residents can get information, research materials using books or computers or simply a quiet place to learn how to read or to enjoy a favorite book.