TERRE HAUTE — With time, people grow to realize the implications of “goodbye.”
Bob Snyder walked the halls of The Meadows shopping center for an hour and a half Friday morning, just as he’s always done six days a week, every month, every year. The retired truck driver enjoys the exercise. After his daily walk, Snyder drops in at the Meadows branch of the Vigo County Public Library. He scans the USA Today, Indianapolis Star, Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune newspapers, after already having read his Tribune-Star at home.
When the librarians opened the door Friday morning, Snyder strolled in, picked up the USA Today and sat down in a chair.
One last time.
The 70-year-old Vigo County native knew it was the final day for the Meadows branch. So did the rest of its hundreds of loyal patrons. State property tax caps reduced the Vigo County library system’s funds, forcing its board to close three of its five branches. On Friday, Meadows became the first to go.
“I was dreading it,” Snyder said.
Until my questions interrupted his reading, Snyder looked relaxed in a casual shirt, jeans and his walking sneakers. When we started talking about the library’s demise, he called it sad, and you could tell he meant it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the elderly people out here, and they’re devastated by it,” Snyder said, “because it’s too far for them to get out to [the main branch library] at Seventh and Poplar.”
Carolyn Smith visits the Meadows branch at least once a week. On Friday, she carefully dropped a bag full of books, one by one, into the return slot at the librarians’ desk. She’s 79.
“I’m very upset,” Smith said. “These girls [on the Meadows staff] are great. They help me out when I need it.”
Walking to and from her car is sometimes tricky for Smith. That’s why she’s a bit anxious about switching to the library’s larger main branch downtown. “I’m sure they’ll be nice, too,” she said, “but these girls help me a lot.”
After Smith dropped off her books, Wilburn Elrod checked out the latest John Grisham novel at the other end of the librarians’ desk. Elrod lives nearby, on South 22nd Street. Whenever the Meadows would get a new title in by one of his favorite authors — Grisham, David Baldacci and Stuart Woods — the staff would hold that book, and let Elrod know it had arrived.
On Friday, Elrod hadn’t yet decided whether to switch his routine to the main branch. The Meadows had just been so convenient, especially during the harsh-weather months.
“It’ll be missed,” said Elrod, 82.
The hard numbers add up to more than $900,000 in reduced cost, once the Meadows, Southland and Plaza North branches close. The main branch and West Terre Haute outlet will absorb many of the staffers and much of the lost branches’ materials. The number of closings, even during the worst recession in decades, stands out among Indiana library systems.
“By far, the deepest reduction in services is in Vigo County,” Jim Corridan, deputy librarian at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, said Friday by telephone.
As a result, Diana West, 63, won’t complete her two-mile fitness walk with a daily visit to the Meadows branch now. She may walk the extra 1.8 miles to the main branch instead. She understands some of her fellow retirees won’t make that conversion.
“I think it’s too bad for the ones that won’t be able to get to the downtown branch,” West said.
Kathlene Davidson made a regular morning stop at the Meadows library. In good weather, the 55-year-old retiree walked there. When it’s nasty outside, she’d drive. Once inside, she read newspapers online, books and magazines. She often wrote in the library, and researched ecological issues.
Her mother, a schoolteacher, used to bring Davidson to the Meadows library as a child.
Now, she’ll start driving to the main branch, but not every day.
“There’s a lot of memories, when you’re talking 50 years,” Davidson said. “That’s a lot of time.”
Over time, the faces of other retirees and mall walkers grew familiar to regular patrons, like Bob Snyder.
He saw several of them on Friday. Snyder was concerned about one fellow who took a fall while walking that morning.
“You get acquainted with the people who come in here,” he said, setting his newspaper on the edge of the chair. “That makes it sad, too. You won’t be seeing them anymore.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 231-4377.
Vigo Public Library branch becomes first to close
TERRE HAUTE — With time, people grow to realize the implications of “goodbye.”
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