SPL to close local library

The Southwest Public Library (SPL) Board has decided to close its Central Crossing Library branch.

Mark Shaw, director of SPL, said the decision was made due to lack of funding. He explained that the library board has made budget cuts over the past seven years including a 25 percent reduction in personnel and a 30 percent reduction in expenditures. This year, the public library lost $102,000. They expect to see another 2 percent decrease in funding in 2009.

"The library board’s decision is completely driven by its funding situation," said Shaw. "The Ohio economy is in a tough spot."

SPL receives approximately 96 percent of its funding from the State of Ohio.

According to Shaw, the board decided to close the branch as a "last resort." They first cut Sunday hours, personnel and library material purchases.

The Central Crossing Library is open to the public in the evening and on Saturday.

Throughout the day, Central Crossing High School students use the library. South-Western City School Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said the library would remain for students only. It will become their regular high school library.

Shaw explained that the Central Crossing Library is the only SPL to close. The Grove City Library and the Westland Area Library circulate ten times more materials than the Central Crossing branch. They also serve a significantly larger number of patrons.

"We’ve tried, and there is just no more money for this," said Shaw. "We’re stretched too thin."

In 2000, the library system entered into a contract with the school district. Under the terms of the contract, the district provided all the shelving, furniture and most of the other equipment. All the items purchased by SWCS will stay for student use. The library board purchased equipment to operate the Discovery Place Library circulation system. That equipment will be removed and placed in either the Grove City or Westland library.

The district will also have the opportunity to choose which books to keep and the library will take the rest and distribute them to Westland or Grove City. Wise said the district would keep the books geared towards young adults and educational material. He said the books for small children, the magazine subscriptions and the large print material for seniors would go to the other libraries.

The SPL is in talks with the city of Grove City to relocate the Grove City Library branch to a larger location, behind City Hall. Shaw said the decision to close the Central

Crossing branch has nothing to do with the potential new building. He said the library board had to make drastic cuts long before the idea of relocation was introduced. He also explained that, while they are negotiating with the city, the board has made it clear that they do not have the funds to contribute to the project. All the costs to move would be absorbed by the city.

Shaw said there are three employees at the Central Crossing Library. The board plans to transfer the employees to other library branches.

The Central Crossing Library opened in August 2002. It costs approximately $80,000 to $100,000 a year to operate. In 2005, SPL and the school district renewed the library contract for another five years, but there was a clause that allowed SPL to end the contract early if there was a 5 percent decline in funding.

Wise said this closing would not end the partnership between the library and the school district.

"This has been a wonderful cooperative venture between SPL and the school district, which has benefited not only our students and their families, but the entire community," Wise stated. "We fully understand the library’s situation and will work with them to facilitate a smooth transition."

Community members who use the library wondered if the branch could re-open, but Shaw said that was unlikely. He explained that SPL has experienced a decline in funding dating back to 2001. Any future increases in funding would be used to "repair some of the damage inflicted on other library services over the past decade."

Shaw said funding would likely not improve until Ohio’s economy improves. SPL has attempted seven property tax levies over the last 22 years, but with no success. The library board does not want to make another attempt.

Central Crossing Library is scheduled to close June 4, 2009, the last day of school. Work would begin after that to remove the materials and equipment that belong to SPL. It will open as a high school library in time for the 2009/10 school year.

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