The Bloomfield-Eastern Greene County Public Library will close the Hatfield Museum branch July 31, but there will still be library service offered to the small southeastern Greene County community.
The library operations will be taken over by the Owensburg Community Improvement Association as a private lending library, staffed by volunteers with materials donated by the Bloomfield-Eastern Greene County Public Library (BEGCPL) Board of Trustees.
"The BEGCPL has faced several challenges in regards to the Owensburg branch, including a decreasing budget and limited handicap accessibility in the building," Library Director Cassandra Thompson stated. "After a great deal of deliberation, the Board of Trustees came to a decision to close the Owensburg library as a branch of the BEGCPL."
The library will continue to offer services through July 31 and will have the closure fully completed by August 31.
"The bulk of materials will be donated to the Owensburg Community Improvement Association, which will continue to run the museum and library with volunteers, following the premise of a 'little free library' for patrons to borrow materials on an honor system basis," the library director said.
Thompson said she and he library board of trustees struggled with the decision, because they all care deeply about promoting literacy and education in Greene County.
"When realizing that changes had to be made, they were very pleased to still partner with the Owensburg Community Improvement Association to continue to meet those goals. Volunteers have come forward to staff the museum as a private lending library, and BEGCPL will donate books regularly to keep reading materials fresh and interesting," Thompson said. "The BEGCPL will still provide traditional library services for the Owensburg and the other eastern townships at both the Main Library and Eastern Branch in Little Cincinnati, which is located about seven miles from Owensburg."
The Little Cincinnati branch and the main library offers access to thousands of materials, including e-books, music, and movies. The library also hosts a variety of programs for all ages and offers delivery service to patrons with physical limitations that prevent them from coming to the library.
Concerns about dwindling financial resources in the next three years because the main library will pay off its current bonds for the new addition also was a major factor in the decision.
Thompson estimated that the library's budget would be decreased by about 8 percent in the next three years.
"We're sad this has happened, but we are grateful that the Owensburg Community Improvement Association has been able to work with us to provide a private lending library so residents will have easy access to reading material," Thomas stated.
In January, Thompson addressed the Greene County Commissioners and advised that the library had been talking about closing the library.
She cited that the leased building used to house the library is not compliant with ADA requirements for those with disabilities and on-going maintenance issues are a concern.
There were also concerns about low utilization of the library by patrons who in December 2012 checked out about 90 printed materials. That compares with about 200 printed materials at the Little Cincinnati branch library, which also serves patrons in the eastern part of the county.
Thompson pointed out that the Owensburg branch library is not cost efficient and she estimated that the cost per patron is about $100, compared to $30 a person for patrons of the Little Cincinnati Branch and $28 a person for the main library in Bloomfield.
Staffing was also an issue with no permanent employees. The library had been staffed by a part-time replacement person, she said.