05/17/07 — Volunteer group tries to raise funds to save Fremont branch

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Volunteer group tries to raise funds to save Fremont branch

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 17, 2007 1:50 PM

FREMONT -- Supporters of the Fremont branch of the Wayne County Public Library are working to save the facility from closing the last day of June.

County officials say the 2,500-square-foot frame building is not up to code. Earlier this year, the library's board of directors decided to close the facility, but Fremont residents argued that their town deserves a good public library and are trying to find the money needed to keep the building's doors open.

Inspectors say the building needs improvements to its heating and air-conditioning system, its roof, its wiring and its plumbing. It also does not meet federal requirements for handicapped accessibility and does not have a fire alarm system. The building has issues with asbestos removal as well, said county buildings and grounds director Brant Brown, who inspected it last month.

As much as $30,000 could be needed to make those improvements. Library patrons asked the Fremont Town Board for $10,000. Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie has included a $4,000 allotment for the library in his proposed budget.

The Friends of the Fremont Library formed to keep the library open. Mary Jo Hooks, a member of the group, said its members are pursuing grants and are sponsoring a fundraising drive.

The library is an important educational resource for people living in the northern part of the county, group members say. It provides not only books but an Internet link for residents who might not otherwise have access to the World Wide Web.

County library officials considered closing the branch last year because traffic counts showed it was being used by only a few people. The branch reduced hours to streamline its operation, but the library board still considered its closure. In March, the board created a committee to determine whether the Fremont branch should remain open and what physical improvements would be needed.

Mrs. Hooks said aside from the outside work, the Fremont branch needs additional attention inside as well, including better book shelves.

The county public library system has branches in Fremont, Pikeville, Mount Olive and Seven Springs, in addition to the main library on Ash Street in Goldsboro.

Library Director Jane Rustin said she wants each branch to be able to provide enough space to expand programs for children and to offer more computers for Internet access. A long-range capital improvement plan calls for the construction of two new library branches, a 13,000-square-foot building in northern Wayne and a 20,000-square-foot building in southern Wayne.

The library board is expected to meet with Brown on Friday to discuss needed improvements at the facility. The board will meet with the Fremont library's committee next week.

Meanwhile, Fremont residents are continuing to explore any avenue that might help them keep their library open.