Library supporters rally in Fremont
By Gary Popp
Published in News on February 5, 2012 1:50 AM
FREMONT -- With their town's library saved at the last minute from the county's chopping block last year, supporters rallied Friday to urge their new county commissioner to fight to keep the facility's doors open during the upcoming budget discussions.
During the 2011-12 budgeting process, each county department was charged with finding ways to trim spending by 5 percent. At the time, the Wayne County Public Library Advisory Board of Trustees responded by suggesting the closure of the Fremont Library due to its low level of use.
However, supporters were able to persuade officials to give them at least one more year, and now, as the county is preparing to start work on the 2012-13 budget, those supporters are again trying to make their voices heard.
Friday's event was scheduled as an opportunity for people to meet and voice concerns to recently seated county Commissioner Ray Mayo, who accepted the seat in early December after Andy Anderson relinquished the position, but it quickly focused on the residents' desire to keep the doors open to the county's northernmost library.
Mayo said he was thrilled by the turnout and commitment of the citizens to their neighborhood library.
"We got the message today from the citizens of Fremont loud and clear," he said.
But it has been shown in recent years that county funding of branch libraries is not always secure. Fremont has long been on the hot seat, and Wayne County Library Director Donna Phillips said the Rosewood branch closed in 2002 and the Seven Springs branch in 2010.
"We never want to close a public library," Mrs. Phillips said. "That is a heart-breaking thing."
But keeping Fremont's doors open will likely depend on officials being able to justify the expense through the library's level of use. Currently they are in the process of gathering that information, including the library's circulation rates, number of registered users and rate of visitors.
The statistics will help calculate the financial assistance required of the county and provide other resources, Mrs. Phillips said.
Mrs. Phillips said there are no magic numbers that the Fremont library could meet to ensure it would not lose funding in the future.
"We just put the stats on paper and hand it over to the board," she said.
But until the county gets further into the budget planning process, she said there was no way to tell if cuts are going to be required of the library department.
If they are not, she said, there likely will not be any reduction in funding to the Fremont branch. If cuts are required, though, residents may feel the pinch.
"We operate a very lean budget. There is no fat," Mrs. Phillips said. "When you talk about cuts, you are talking about books, hours and staff."
She said the library department's goal is to operate as efficiently as possible.
While no officials would provide a timetable, Mrs. Phillips said the county has a long-term plan to open a full-service, central northern county library that would result in equitable library services to all Wayne County residents.
Mayo said the increase of resident's patronizing the library and communication with county officials with future planning will be most beneficial to Fremont book lovers.
"I want to see the library open. We can talk about a new central library, that is years down the road," he said. "I don't want to do anything to keep kids from having access to learning materials."