Seven Springs Library will close its doors after 40 years
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 8, 2010 1:46 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Angie Johnson was surprised when she found out the Seven Springs library branch her family has been coming to for years will close at the end of this month.
"I've always been coming in here," she said Friday, after dropping by with son, Alan, and daughter, Abigail, for a visit. "We come to read, they come to the summer reading program."
The Seven Springs branch of the Wayne County Library has served the southern Wayne community for 40 years, but will cease operations July 1.
The county's long-range plan is to close the branch in favor of developing the Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive into a regional library, so the news of the impending closure was not a surprise to Seven Springs Mayor Stephen Potter.
Potter said he is grateful for the many years the county has funded the library, and understands the financial necessity behind the closing.
"We're very fortunate that the county manager and commissioners have been as fiscally responsible as they can be," Potter said.
Closing the branch might help the town's budget, too. The burden of keeping up the facility and paying the utilities was a significant cost for the small village, the mayor said.
The branch never held a large collection of books or other educational resources, but its staff and frequent patrons said they will miss having the closeness of a community-based library.
"We have mixed feelings," said Donna Phillips, assistant director of the county library, acknowledging the financial reasons for the move. " It's always sad when a library closes, but then we look forward to delivering services in just another location."
Use of the library has dwindled over the years, and for the last three years the branch has operated partially on grant money to serve a traditionally under-served Latino population. Of every 10 patrons visiting the library, about eight are studying English as a second language and the others are typically older residents and families with children who live outside of the Seven Springs town limits, the library staff said. Students from Spring Creek High School have also used the library.
Even though the move has been planned for some time, as someone who used to work at the library many years ago, and who watched as the branch came back into use even after Hurricane Floyd flooded the town in 1999, Potter does not like to see it go.
"It's a sad day to see it close. It's certainly been a benefit to the community, having it close by for elderly residents," he said.
The town board is taking steps to continue providing some outreach programs that were housed at the library. The summer reading program will continue as planned at the town hall, and town officials have also discussed with Wayne Community College the possibility of moving the GED and English-language classes to the town hall.
The county's "Book Buddies" program will also continue to serve Seven Springs residents. The volunteer program delivers books to elderly residents or others who cannot easily get to a library on their own, and is looking for additional volunteers in the Seven Springs area.
Librarians Lisa Dixon and Deifilia Velasquez said they will miss the closeness of working with their local patrons, many of whom they know on a first-name basis, but hope that they will get to continue seeing the people they have grown to know well after they move to another branch.
The Seven Springs location has special meaning for Ms. Dixon, because it was the first place she worked as a librarian.
"I've learned everything here. It is sad to see it closing, but I'm glad I'll be able to use my skills and hopefully the patrons will follow," she said.
Ms. Velasquez said she is looking forward to continuing to work with the children she frequently sees in Seven Springs, only at other branches.
"It's so important to read when they're so young," she said.
The Seven Springs Library has bilingual employees to help Latino patrons, and Mrs. Philips said the library system hopes to shift those employees to another branch.
"We're waiting to hear on the (county) budget," she said.
The Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive is still about two years away from moving into the former Belk building, but fundraising for the project by the Friends of the Library is going very well, Ms. Phillips said.
"They've made a terrific effort," she said.
In the meantime, the Steele Memorial Library will take on some of the books from the Seven Springs branch. The collection and the computer equipment and software will be shared among the county libraries. The Spanish language materials will be divided between Mount Olive and Pikeville.
Ms. Phillips said the county library system will take away lessons learned from 40 years of operating the Seven Springs branch, including community-centric initiatives that may be put into use at other locations.
"It was always our intention to take what we've learned here and apply that throughout our library system. We certainly plan to continue replicating what we've done here, we'll just do it at different locations," she said.