Natrona County Public Library Plans to Close Mills Branch; Cites Staff Shortage
The Mills branch of the Natrona County Public Library system is scheduled to close at the end of March, the library's executive director told the Natrona County Commission on Tuesday.
"Closing a library, (speaking) as a library director, really hurts," Lisa Scroggins told commissioners at a work session.
The county's allocation to the library for this fiscal year meant the library is operating with a critical shortage of staff, she said.
Earlier this year, Scroggins said the library's board of trustees decided to close its main branch at 307 E. Second St., in Casper on Sundays because of a staff shortage, while still keeping a half-time staff member working at the Mills branch at 717 Fifth St.
That wasn't enough.
"This would be the last-ditch effort," Scroggins said.
"We were looking at this as soon as we got our budget allocation, so we started looking at this in July and put it off as long as we could," she said. "But the fact is the fact, and we've got to have more staff at the main branch library or we're going to lose even more than what we already lost, which is Sunday closures."
The board of trustees has has held open meetings and has reached out to the Mills Town government, but was not able to get much of a response, Scroggins said.
So the board sent a letter to the town saying it intends to close the branch on March 29.
The Town of Mills owns and maintains the branch building and pays the utilities, while the library system supplies the materials -- about 4,000 books, recordings and other items -- and staff.
Having a part-time staff member means the Mills branch's hours are short, and that staff member would be more effective working at the main branch, which is three miles away.
In terms of library usage, the negative impact of one month of closures on Sundays is more than the entire usage of the Mills branch in a year, Scroggins said.
When the branch was created in 2005, the first budget had an agreement that the town would contribute $27,000 a year to the branch's operations, but the contributions did not continue, Scroggins told the commissioners.
Scroggins said she hopes an arrangement can be worked out with the town.
Mills Mayor Seth Coleman said he and town officials have spoken with Scroggins.
While the library system indicated it would like a financial contribution from the town, Coleman said it's hard to allocate money after the town set its own budget.
"We're open to some negotiation," he said. "If not, we'll have the (town) council decide what to do with the library, whether to change the way it functions to try to get more use or repurpose it."