Millheim

East Penns Valley Library in Millheim on chopping block

mcarroll@centredaily.com September 16, 2013 

Years of receiving diminished funding and balancing budgets with reserves have left Centre County Library officials with a difficult decision.

And the future of the East Penns Valley Area Branch Library in Millheim hangs in the balance.

The Centre County Library and Historical Museum’s board of trustees will meet later this week to decide whether to close the branch.

Officials called the proposed closure “a regrettable but necessary action,” due to “sustained cumulative losses systemwide, as well as diminished financial support lost during the recent economic downturn.”

Jennifer Cifelli, library communications director, said the closure would allow the library system to continue providing programs and resources for county residents at its other locations.

“By closing that one branch, we can effectively close the gap that’s been bleeding in our budget every year,” Cifelli said.

The library, which operates its five locations with an $800,000 budget, has lost about $2 million in state and federal funding since 2007. But a potential closure would not mean the library system is turning its back on Penns Valley, Cifelli said.

Instead, officials would use savings to extend other services in Penns Valley, including bookmobile and homebound book programs.

“We don’t have any intention of just closing and walking away,” she said.

Officials with the branch said Monday that they could not comment. Millheim officials could not be reached.

The library enlisted an independent consultant in January to update the system’s strategic plan. The proposal to close the East Penns Valley branch came from the consultant’s report, library officials said.

Cifelli said the report found that branch was expensive to operate, was underutilized and had an overlap of services with the nearby, and busier, Centre Hall location.

“We were finding we could successfully still give services to the area and still close a lot of gaps,” she said. “But it’s not a happy decision.”

The board of trustees vote is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Centre County Library in Bellefonte. The meeting is open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend, Cifelli said.

“Eliminating the branch will not end library service to Penns Valley, but rather allows the library to streamline services while still offering necessary resources to its patrons,” officials said in a statement.

Officials say they will expand or maintain the following programs:

• Additional bookmobile stops and time spent in the Penns Valley area;

• The library’s homebound book delivery program that’s available to those who cannot physically visit a library location;

• An ever-growing digital collection of e-books, online resources and databases accessible to patrons; and

• Outreach services at area day care centers and senior centers to conduct library programming and services.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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