After a heated exchange among board members and residents, the board said that it would take until next February to assess the needs of the community and decide whether to keep the branch open. If so, the board would extend the lease, and then include the $64,000 to restock the branch in the 2014-15 budget.
Trepp cited the branch’s declining enrollment as one of the main reasons for the decision not to reopen it. In addition, the majority of the West End population remains displaced from their homes, and a library in that neighborhood would go unused, he said.
West End residents who were in attendance did not take the announcement well, saying that the Point Lookout branch was quick to reopen following a public outcry among residents in that community. Many older residents said that they use the library almost every day, and that getting to the main branch, which reopened last week, is difficult. Those who are disabled have a hard time getting on and off a bus. The branch is also many older residents’ only connection to technology, and without it they are unable to access a computer or fax machine.
“We deserve the same services the people in the center of the city get,” said California Street resident Ken Parr.
Ford suggested that it could be a good site for community organizations to meet, since many of the places they would usually meet, like churches or the Knights of Columbus, are still closed. “We’re not asking you to build something that was never there before,” said Ford.
Bendo acknowledged that enrollment had been declining at the branch over the last few years, but asserted that it wasn’t because the library doesn’t serve a need in the community. He suggested the branch had a “marketing problem,” and the library didn’t do enough to draw people to it. Bendo said that the branch needs programming, like the classes offered at the main branch. He also said that the branch’s hours contributed to the problem. The schedule was different every day, and it was only open one night a week. For many people who work during the day, getting to the library wasn’t an option.
“Something has to change about the way it was operated before,” said Bendo. “It was in decline.”