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Hepworth library may stay open

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The Bruce County Library Board is expected to discuss a recommendation that the Hepworth branch of the library stay open until the end of the year.

Originally slated to close Aug. 16, the recommendation to keep the branch open until the end of the year is expected to come forward at a special meeting of the board on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the community centre in Hepworth.

"I think with the way it is going right now it is probably going to stay open to the end of the year," library board chairman Mitch Twolan said Friday. "That is going to be the staff recommendation."

The library board decided last month to close the branch as of Aug. 16, citing limited access to the branch because of its location in Hepworth Central Public School. Because the branch is located in the school, a board employee had to be present, constraining the times the library could be open to the public.

Twolan said Friday the matter will be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday, where the board will learn why the staff have come forward with the recommendation.

"We are calling everybody back from the summer holidays and I haven't even talked to my fellow board members," said Twolan. "It could go to that the board says no, we are closing it too. It is a staff recommendation and I am only one person."

The special meeting of the board was arranged last month after members of the public expressed concerns about the branch closing. Friends of the Library - Hepworth has since formed and is looking into ways to keep the branch open.

Group spokesperson Shannon Crow said Friday she was pleased to hear the board would be discussing keeping the branch open until the end of 2013.

"It feels like it gives us a lot more time to show that people are going to use the library," said Crow. "That is great."

Crow said her group plans on having a delegation at Wednesday's meeting where they will discuss their options on how to increase use of the library.

"We would like to go over the benefits of any community library and especially one that has the benefits Hepworth's does by being in the school," said Crow. "We have quite a few suggestions as a committee what we could do to help the library if it stayed open, including fundraising, notifying parents of kids at the school through a newsletter home and having different events at the library."

The Friends of the Library - Hepworth group now has more than 25 people on a committee formed to look into helping keep the library open.

Some of the possible options being explored are creating a separate entrance to the library so the community wouldn't have to check-in at the school to access it, adding signage and bringing in more programs. Crow also wants a drop-off box at the library so people can return books after hours.

"Every other town has a sign for their library and ours doesn't," said Crow, who added they are in discussions with Town of South Bruce Peninsula staff about having a sign directing traffic to the library.

Crow said losing the library would be huge loss for both the school and the community.

"Right now there are 140-some kids who have library cards here, so it is mainly kids and those kids grow up to know the library system just by going to school," said Crow. "They will grow up to know the public library even if their families didn't attend a library. I think that is really unique."

Crow said much of the group's work has been focused on making the community aware of the library.

"A lot of people thought it had closed or they thought there wasn't even one, or they didn't understand there was actually a public library," said Crow. "That has gotten out."

Crow said Hepworth is at a crossroads and feels many more people would use a library if they knew it was there.

"Tim Hortons is in Hepworth for a reason. It is a really busy corner," said Crow. "People can drop books off from any town — Sauble, Owen Sound, Wiarton."

Crow said she is hopeful the library board will keep the branch open.

"I know already the library board said it was a really tough decision and they are not working to close libraries," said Crow. "They are working to keep them open."

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