Clearfield County Asked to Help Save Osceola Mills Library
CLEARFIELD – The presidents of Osceola Mills Borough Council and the Osceola Mills Historical Society reached out to the Clearfield County Commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting, asking for their help in keeping the Osceola Mills Library open.
Council President Ida Reams told the commissioners she’d received a letter from the Clearfield County Public Library board dated Feb. 13. The board wrote it was forced to agree with the Dec. 7, 2011 recommendation from the district library administrator to close the Osceola Mills library.
In the letter, the board proposed either making it a bookmobile shop and or community collection rather than continuing to provide library services. The board based its decision on declining circulation, which it indicated was two or three times less than its other locations.
In addition, concerns had arisen from a representative of the Commonwealth Libraries about its physical structure. The representative questioned the building’s ability to continue carrying the weight of library materials and pointed out the inability to upgrade the technology infrastructure due to lacking funds.
According to the letter, some issues may have been addressed if the library had a more robust financial outlook. But state aid had decreased 33 percent since 2008, from $173,265 to $115,876 in 2012. Further, the board said it hoped the governor’s budget would restore funding to former levels, but it has showed further decrease in the amount of 5 percent.
The board wrote that over the past three years, it has distributed the cutbacks as evenly as possible among the three entities: the Joseph and Elizabeth Shaw, the Curwensville and the Osceola Mills libraries. At the present time, it believes all three entities will be harmed if it continues the even distribution of cuts.
“We understand the impact closing the branch will have. That is why we have continually absorbed for the past 14 years the increase in occupancy costs that had previously been covered by the borough donation; unfortunately, we no longer have the funds to do so. While we know it will not be the same, we will do our best to work with you to provide library service in another way,” the letter concluded.
Reams said the letter had also been received by Floyd Hauth of the historical society. She said the library building, which is located in the Brisbin House, also houses the historical society and has been an asset to the community for 40 years.
“We’re very concerned about the potential closing,” said Hauth, adding he and Reams had reached out to Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale. Hauth said George responded by offering an amendment to the budget that would help libraries when the bill is before the House of Representatives. However, he couldn’t make any guarantees that it’d be accepted.
Hauth said George also indicated he’d contacted CCPD Director Dan Bogey about plans of rescuing the library. George had also contacted Senator John Wozniak and intended to contact other government officials about the library’s potential closure.
“Our library, in addition to serving about 200 community residents, also serves many veterans in this area, including some disabled veterans whose only source of computer (and) Internet service is at this library,” Hauth said.
“In addition, it serves the children of many disadvantaged families in southeastern Clearfield County plus five adjacent, small communities in Centre County. The library also provides story hour for pre-school children and meeting rooms for our local American Legion and Civic Club.”
Hauth reminded the commissioners that if the library closed, it would affect both Clearfield and Centre county residents. He suggested the commissioners develop a partnership with Centre County to provide adequate funding so that this “critical service” could be available to residents of both communities.
According to him, he would rather have the library’s operational hours scaled back than it close completely. He said people frequently use the library for computers and Internet and to read newspapers and magazines, and these aren’t figured into the circulation numbers.
Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said he’d contacted Bogey, who said the board had discussed the library and its assets. He said Bogey indicated the literature, computers, etc. could remain in the current library building.
McCracken said he and Commissioner Chairman John A. Sobel have also spoken with George about having the library funding restored. Hauth said the library currently had one full-time and one part-time employee, and Reams added they’re trying to form a committee to review the present situation.
Hauth said the library’s operational costs are $11,000 annually. Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen suggested the library explore transitioning into a non-profit entity. She said it’s “a different stream” that may present alternative revenue sources that would allow the library to remain open.
McCracken said he’d contact Bogey again about his plans for a potential closing date so they could develop a timeframe for pulling together possible resolutions. Robinson-McMillen said she’d discuss the possibilities of a partnership with Centre County.
Reams said the historical society has a lifetime lease for the library’s building. The library is currently open Monday through Thursday and Saturday.