09/28/09 — Seven Spring Library will close when new Mount Olive branch opens

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Seven Spring Library will close when new Mount Olive branch opens

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 28, 2009 1:46 PM

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Seven Springs Library employees Norma Hernandez, left, and Maria Rodriguez work on housekeeping chores while waiting for patrons Friday afternoon. Ms. Rodriguez said that Fridays are normally a busy time for the branch. However, a lack of use is being cited as the reason the library is scheduled to close when the Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive moves into larger quarters.

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The town's small library was able to recover from the floodwaters that ravaged the community in the wake of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, but it will not be able to survive a drop-off in use.

After the flood receded the town was able to secure a double-wide mobile home from the state to house the library. The town abandoned the library's scenic site downtown near the river in favor of the safer high ground afforded by the hill on N.C. 55 that overlooks Main Street. It is a steep climb up what is pretty much a one-lane paved then dirt street to the library.

The county was even able to save some of the books from the flooded library.

While the library has developed into a success story for the library system's Latino outreach program, use has otherwise fallen off and that has led to the decision to close the facility.

It won't happen right away. It could be several years. There is no timetable. Rather, it will depend on the progress made toward a new home for Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive.

The county paid Mount Olive College $400,000 for the 23,000-square-foot Belk's building. It is significantly larger than the current library building, which has just 2,750 square feet of space.

A library steering committee is working with a consultant to draft a plan to transform the building into what is envisioned as a regional library that would serve the needs of the southern end of the county -- including a home for the Latino outreach program.

An added benefit, said county library executive director Jane Rustin, is that it should help relieve some of the pressure on the Goldsboro branch as well. Both the Mount Olive and Goldsboro branches are very busy, she said.

It is "mind boggling," she said, that the Mount Olive library will be similar in size to the Goldsboro branch.

"Even in the Goldsboro Library, people are asking for quiet, but we don't have a place," she said. "It is just too much jammed and packed in there. This (new Mount Olive Library) could give us a little breathing room."

For example, technical services are currently located in the back of the Goldsboro branch. That is where books are processed before being sent out to libraries and where films are checked.

Consideration is being given to transferring that operation to Mount Olive.

While it would not free up a large amount of space, it could provide a quiet area for computer use, Ms. Rustin said.

"It would be just enough to move the noisier, busier atmosphere away from the front and to the back," she said.

The size of the Mount Olive facility will make it a full-service branch just like Goldsboro. That would mean the hours at the Mount Olive branch would be the same as the ones in Goldsboro, making it easier for people to locate a full-service branch, she said.

The $3.5 million Mount Olive Library project will include a grassroots campaign to raise up to $350,000 -- 10 percent -- of the total.

The Seven Springs branch would not close until, "we are up and running in Mount Olive," Ms. Rustin said. "(Closure) has been our plan because of the lack of use of the Seven Springs Library. There is no population base. We regret having to do this, but we have to spend the taxpayers' money wisely. The (outreach) program was able to remain in Seven Springs since the library was open."

Another reason behind the move is that the mobile home that houses the Seven Springs branch is old and will continue to deteriorate, she said.

The Latino outreach program is funded through a Library Services Technology Assistance grant and local funds. It has received $50,000 each year for the past three years and is a federal matching funds grant that is administered by the state.

The county has gradually increased its share of the funding and this year provided one-half of the total.

"It is a three-year program to deliver library services outreach to undeserved populations in the county," said Donna Phillips, assistant director, who wrote the grant application and oversees the program. "In Wayne County, that is the Latino population."

The largest concentration of the Latino community is in southern Wayne County and hence the decision to locate the program at the Seven Springs Library.

Ms. Rustin praised the county for its support of the program.

She is hopeful that the county will continue to fund the program once the grant monies run out. The appropriation would be well less than the $50,000 level, she said. A large portion of the funding was needed to buy materials. The county has done so, which means the program will not cost as much to continue, she said.

The county, she said, now has a good collection of materials needed for the program.

Three days a week instructors from Wayne Community College deliver GED and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the library. Currently the program is without an instructor. The person who had been teaching the class was promoted and reassigned.

"They (WCC) are looking hard for a new one for us," Ms. Rustin said.

"The library has been full of students earning their GEDs," Ms. Phillips said. "Hispanic families have been using the computers and software to help them become fluent in English, too."

In addition, Partnership for Children of Wayne County has provided educational classes and Wayne County Head Start has conducted early literacy classes. The Cooperative Extension Service has worked with Latino families encouraging them to use the library, Ms. Phillips added.

A teen advisory group from nearby Spring Creek High School has assisted the library in preparing programs for teens.

"Over the last year about 1,000 Latino families were served," Ms. Phillips said. "One of the wonderful things is that while this started in Seven Springs, we have learned best practices and we are sharing that throughout the county's libraries. We have increased the number of foreign language and bilingual materials."

Computer classes are held on Tuesday and Thursday nights, while the GED and ESL classes are taught on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A Family Focus class is held on Tuesday and Thursday. The class focuses on teaching parents how to help their children in school. It is especially aimed at Hispanic families.

The Seven Spring Library is open from 1-6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and closed on Wednesday and Thursday.