07/13/11 — County: Fremont library will stay open

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County: Fremont library will stay open

By Gary Popp
Published in News on July 13, 2011 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Library has survived another round of county budget cuts and will keep its doors open to the public, at least for now.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said Monday the county will continue to give the library money until next July. Late last month, just days before the county budget was adopted, Smith had notified Fremont officials funding for the library branch would be eliminated as of July 1.

Stephen Knotts, chairman of the Friends of the Fremont Library, said the group was ecstatic Smith reversed his decision.

Knotts said the prospect of closing the town's library would take away from the sense of identity felt by Fremont residents.

"It is reducing the quality of life that we can offer the people living in Fremont," Knotts said. "It takes away from something that will make the community look appealing to people moving in. We don't want to be another dying railroad town in North Carolina."

The library's supporters are used to taking extraordinary measures to keep its doors open. The group was established in 2007 when the library faced closure due to building renovations mandated by the county. A campaign raised more than $100,000 for needed renovations.

This year, the library was put on the chopping block when Smith asked all county departments to trim spending by 5 percent. Jane Rustin, Wayne County Public Library director, said the Wayne County Public Library Advisory Board of Trustees responded to Smith's request by suggesting the closure of Fremont Library and a reduction of hours at other branches.

"We were very reluctant to recommend the closing in Fremont. We found it necessary because the usage of that library is not at level of other facilities," she said.

Ms. Rustin said in the most recent quarter, from April to June, the book circulation in Fremont was 1,513. During that same time, Pikeville Library's book circulation was 5,906.

Libraries have also become source for community members to access the Internet, but, again, the Fremont Library fails in comparison to others in the county library system.

In the last quarter, Fremont had 584 Internet users in its library, while there were 1,100 Internet users in Pikeville, 3,996 users in Mount Olive and 19,402 users in Goldsboro.

"We need to do something to make it look better on paper," Knotts said. "It looks bad. I understand (the county's) point."

But Knotts added the decision should not come down to numbers only. The library adds much to the quality of life in Fremont, he said.

Now, with a new 12-month lease on life, Knotts said the library group will actively work to increase its patronage by hosting events, extending services and seeking additional guidance from the county Library Advisory Board.

While the library will remain open for another year, both the Fremont and Pikeville libraries are scheduled to eventually close with the construction of a northern Wayne County regional library.