ASHTON — Following months of deliberation, members of the Mason County Library Board of Directors voted Tuesday to permanently close the Hannan Branch Library in Ashton.
The decision came following another devastating blow to the county library finances. Director Pam Thompson said she received a letter from the West Virginia Library Commission two days before Christmas, informing her that local library funding will be cut an additional $13,500 for the year. That money was already included in the operating budget for the libraries.
The vote to permanently close the library was 4-0, with the Hannan area board member abstaining from the vote. Items inside the building will be moved and used in the three remaining libraries. It is unknown what will happen to the building itself, which sits on property owned by the Mason County School System.
It was first reported the library was in jeopardy of closing in September, after it was learned funding would be cut from the state. Local tax base funding has also decreased for the libraries, going from $65,000 a few years ago to the current $20,000 allotted by the Mason County Commission.
The vote on whether to permanently close Hannan’s library was due in November, but board members remained hopeful that a solution could be found. The board finally made the decision following the latest round of state funding cuts.
The Hannan library had been temporarily closed since the summer in an effort to save money. A “little library” box was placed on site at that time to allow residents in the area to continue to borrow books. The Hannan branch was chosen for closure due to low circulation statistics, Thompson said in September. She added it costs approximately $20,000 to operate the Hannan library annually.
Other measures to save money, as well as unconventional ways to raise funds, have taken place in past months.
While there have been no cuts in programming, the book budget was slashed, and when an employee left, he was not replaced. Two employees are voluntarily taking the month of January off, and one of those same employees has offered to work fewer hours, it was reported in Tuesday’s board meeting.
To raise funds, Thompson and the library staff have sold cupcakes. Local churches have held dinners, and a drive for paper goods and cleaning supplies for each of the libraries is ongoing.
Board members also voted Tuesday to raise the fee for overdue books, as well as copies made for patrons. Overdue book fees went from 10 cents per day to 25 cents per day, with a $5 cap for each item. Copies will now cost patrons 25 cents for each page, up from 15 cents.
The three remaining libraries in the county system at Point Pleasant, New Haven, and Mason are continuing to accept monetary and supply donations. Items needed are commercial and kitchen size trash bags, hand soap and sanitizer, toilet paper, floor cleaner, dusting spray, napkins, paper plates, paper towels, baby wipes, tissues, bleach, disinfectant, and toilet bowl cleaner.
The county libraries continue to provide many services and programs, in addition to having books and movies to borrow. Computers are available for patrons to use, including job searches and compiling resumes. Story hours are held to promote reading and socialization for pre-schoolers. For the past several years, the libraries have served as the sites for summer lunch programs that provide meals to children up to 18 years, free of charge regardless of parent incomes. The libraries are also available as meeting places for local clubs and organizations.
For more information on how you can help, or to find out about programs and services, contact the Point Pleasant library at 304-675-0894, New Haven at 304-882-3252, or Mason at 304-773-5580.
Mindy Kearns is a freelancer writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at email@example.com.