ASHTON — One of Mason County’s four public libraries is in jeopardy of closing, due to decreased funding over the past few years.
The Hannan Branch Library, located in Ashton, was closed temporarily during the summer months to save money, but is now in danger of closing permanently.
“Some hard decisions have had to be made,” said Pam Thompson, county library director. “Based on circulation, Hannan was closed for the summer. In November, a decision will be made on whether to close it for good.”
Thompson said the local tax base funding has been decreasing. Money from the county commission, for example, has gone from $65,000 just a few years ago, to $20,000 currently. Other local funds come from the Mason County School System and the municipalities of New Haven, Mason, and Point Pleasant.
The county libraries are due to receive $139,000 each year in funding from the West Virginia Library Commission, Thompson added, but to be eligible for the money, it must be matched locally. The local match has fallen short, being only $66,500. That means the libraries lose state funding.
While there have been no cuts in programs, other areas have been slashed to try and avoid closing one of the libraries. Thompson said the book budget has been cut, and when employees have left, they have not been replaced. Library hours have not yet been decreased, but Thompson said that might be coming after the first of the year.
The director said the Hannan branch was chosen to be closed during the summer for several reasons. First, she said, the library lost it’s longtime employee last spring. Second, while running monthly statistics reports, it was realized only three patrons were regularly utilizing the Hannan library. During the same period, Mason had a monthly circulation of 500; New Haven, 600; and Point Pleasant, 1,000. Finally, the building itself is in poor condition and in need of many repairs. Permanently closing the library would save between $16,000 and $18,000 annually.
Thompson said unless a miracle occurs, there is no money to keep the library open. A “little library” has been placed at the site, however, which consists of a wooden box on a pole, stocked with the genre of books found to be read by the local patrons. Special requests can also be made at the main library in Point Pleasant if a specific book is wanted.
In the meantime, Thompson said the libraries continue trying to provide services, with a little help from friends. She stated the library systems in both Meigs and Gallia counties have been wonderful. They have allowed Mason County staff to go through their excess books prior to having book sales and donated not only the books, but other supplies, too.
Thompson and the staff have sold cupcakes as a fundraiser, with plans to do it again in the near future. Both the Mason United Methodist Church and New Haven Lutheran Church have held dinners to benefit the libraries. A baked steak dinner will be held at the New Haven church on Nov. 3 from 4 to 6 p.m.
“We’ve been scrambling for ways to raise money,” Thompson added.
Spending has also been curtailed. She said employees are not allowed to spend a penny unless it is approved. Thompson even wrote a grant application for a copier at the Point Pleasant location after the existing one broke.
“We can’t keep operating on grants though,” the director stated. “We already know that next year we are going to be hit again – it’s a given – but we’re hanging in there.”
Thompson said she has been trying to do a lot of outreach so people will be aware of the services offered at the libraries. Along with providing books and movies, there are programs such as story hour for preschool children, and a free lunch program for children in the summer. The libraries are continuing to feed children after school with the food that remains from the summer.
People also utilize the computers and internet at the libraries, Thompson stated. Many use them to complete job resumes, and with the recent announcement of the M&G plant closing, she said the resume writing has already increased.
Local residents can help the libraries not only with monetary donations, but with supplies, as well. Items needed include trash bags (both commercial and kitchen size); hand soap; hand sanitizer; toilet paper; floor cleaner; dusting spray; napkins; paper plates; paper towels; baby wipes; Lysol cleaner, wipes and spray; plastic storage bags in all sizes; tissues; bleach; toilet bowl cleaner; and Swiffer dusters and refills. Donations can be taken to your nearest library.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.