09/06/07 — Mount Olive wants a bigger branch library

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Mount Olive wants a bigger branch library

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 6, 2007 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Could this town become known for book reading as well as pickles?

To hear town Manager Charles Brown tell it, the answer is yes.

Steele Memorial Library "is bursting at the seams," Brown told town commissioners in August. "The potential is there for so much greater use than it gets."

When comparing space and cost, Brown said, the Mount Olive branch outperforms other Wayne County libraries. The library is looking for a better space, and Brown said he intends to campaign to keep the building in or near Mount Olive.

"Simply cost of space per capita, it's the best used library in the county," he said.

A look at library statistics shows that's true -- although Wayne County Public Library Executive Director Jane Rustin said the library "doesn't really do it (statistics) by per capita."

The reason is that county libraries also serve people who don't live in branch-location towns Fremont, Pikeville, Mount Olive and Goldsboro, the library director said. The library system also mans a facility in Seven Springs.

"What area do you really serve? It's a countywide system," Mrs. Rustin said.

Out-of-town visits aside, the Mount Olive library -- in a converted bank building on North Chestnut Street off Breazeale Avenue -- does boast the county's highest number of visits per square foot, figures provided by Mrs. Rustin show.

She also called the highly used library facility "woefully inadequate," and said available space limits the programs that can be held there.

At 2,750 square feet, Mount Olive's Steele Memorial has the most square feet of any Wayne County library other than the Goldsboro branch, but is just 585 square feet larger than Pikeville's branch.

And the Mount Olive branch moves a lot more items -- 53,236 in the last fiscal year compared to Pikeville's 17,429.

But having such little space and so many users puts some pressure on the library's staff, library planning documents show.

A Wayne County Public Library strategic plan says the library has a "shelving deficit" -- more materials than shelves to hold them.

"It is only because a number of materials are checked out at any given time, that materials are not stacked on the floor," the strategic plan says.

Available seating for patrons is also deficient, the plan says.

New business potential, Brown said, is one reason Mount Olive should be interested in its library facilities.

"The library has become an economic development tool," Brown said. "Quite frequently industrial site selectors will look at what are the library facilities."

Brown mentioned that the Wayne County Public Library's advisory board has looked at the old Belk building, near the intersection of Chestnut and Center streets.

"We're considering the feasibility and cost of converting that," Mrs. Rustin said of the Belk building, which she said is owned by Mount Olive College.

The library has to figure out if it's even available, Mrs. Rustin said.

"The college isn't even sure whether they'd be willing to sell it," Mrs. Rustin said. "It's very, very, very preliminary, that conversation."

Brown said the library's location decision won't directly involve the town, but said the town should do everything it can to keep the facility in town limits.

"Be aware that it would be very advantageous to keep that library here," the manager said.