Closure of Mills Library Branch Not a ‘Done Deal’
Posted on December 28th, 2018
“It’s not a done deal yet,” Natrona County Library (NCL) Board of Trustees President Hampton O’Neill said regarding the possible closure of the branch library in Mills. “The NCL Trustees welcome a discussion with Mills officials, and hope to be able to work something out.”
In order to provide formal notice of their intention to terminate a 2005 Library Operations Agreement with the intention of renegotiating a new Library Operations Agreement with the Town of Mills, NCL Board of Trustees recently voted to close the Bob Goff Memorial Library Branch effective March 29, 2019. This move gave the Town of Mills more than the required 90-day notice to respond.
“The Library Board and I welcome input and discussions with the Mills Town Council regarding the branch library,” NCL Executive Director Lisa Scroggins said. “It is entirely possible that together we can prevent a branch closure.”
“Contractually we were obligated to give a written notice of our intention to terminate the current operating agreement,” O’Neill said. “That could only be done following a formal vote on the matter.”
Late last week the library reached out to Mayor Coleman once again, with a proposal of returning to a cost-sharing arrangement similar to the agreement they once had with the Town of Mills, and noting they remain open to alternative solutions.
While the NCL is able to fill current positions as they become vacant, they do not have the funding to add additional positions, which is crucial.
“The library system has been understaffed for quite some time, which is the primary factor behind the painful decision that may result in the closure of the Mills branch,” O’Neill said. “We see shifting staff from the Mills Branch to the Main Library as a possibility to mitigate some of the current staffing needs.”
“Several things went in to making this decision,” Scroggins said. “First and foremost is our staff shortage; however, a decline in the historically low usage, and the branch’s close proximity to the main library also played a part.”
Starting in July, 2018, Scroggins reached out multiple times to Mayor Coleman and the Town of Mills to apprise them of the situation and seeking input for alternative solutions.
“Closing the branch wasn’t the board’s first choice,” NCL Executive Director Lisa Scroggins said. “Unfortunately, I have been unable to make any significant progress in working with the elected officials in Mills.”
“Whether or not the branch is closed, we are not discontinuing services to Mills,” Scroggins said. “The services will just be delivered differently.” The NCL Bookmobile, which carries a larger collection than that in the branch library, will increase its number of stops in Mills. And everyone is welcome to visit the main library, which is only three miles from the Mills Branch.
“We are doing our best to avoid a branch closure,” Scroggins said, “but at the end of the day the Board of Trustees and I are obligated to make the most informed, fiscally responsible decision which best serves the entire county.”
Recent efforts to address the NCL staff shortage included cutting operating hours at both the Mills Branch and the main library in 2017, and cutting Sunday hours year-round at the Main library effective August, 2018.
Under the terms of the 2005 Operating Agreement, the Natrona County Library System covers operating costs, and under a separate agreement the Town of Mills provides the building, facility insurance and utilities.