Eltopia residents protesting the closure of their small branch library have convinced Mid-Columbia Libraries to reopen it.
Library district board members voted 4-2 Tuesday night to reopen the branch at Merrill's Corner in the central Franklin County community. It is not known how soon the branch will reopen, though board members said they hope it will be before the summer reading program begins at the end of the school year.
Residents appealed to the board late last year to keep the small branch open. The branch's hours will change and board members said they still will have to find the money to pay for its operation, but were impressed by feedback from the closure.
"We really did not expect so much response from the area," said Vice Chairwoman Sandy LePage.
The board closed the branch for financial reasons in December because operating costs were too high, given the low number of patrons using it.
Several people commented Tuesday night about how the closure affected them. One man said he drives frequently and no longer has access to audio books. Liz Flatau, 15, said she now has to depend on others to pick things up for her at other branches.
"I miss being able to browse the books and CDs at the library," she said.
Even with the reopening, board members said they need to see a financial reason to keep it open in the future. Chairwoman Gloria Garcia said the library district will look at the branch's number of users and circulation levels closely and there needs to be an increase.
LePage said the library again will be open three days a week, but will be open from 2 to 7 p.m. to match up with operating hours at other libraries.
Library officials said they considered options to get services to residents after the closure. Those included increasing the number of visits from the library district's bookmobile, increasing hours at the Basin City branch and installing a drop box at Merrill's Corner to help Eltopia residents avoid late fines.
"That might not help everyone but it would make services more available," said MCL Executive Director Kyle Cox. He said the library district was prepared to make changes if the branch wasn't reopened.
A branch being built in west Pasco also could serve Eltopia.
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