News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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October 22, 2013

Library board tables discussion of west branch options

TERRE HAUTE — Echoes of the public outcry over closing three Vigo County library branches in 2009 were heard at Monday night’s meeting of the library board.

The library’s board of directors, a seven-member appointed body, heard a committee report on the future of the small West Terre Haute branch, which sits in a two-story building on National Avenue.

The committee, made up of three board members and library staff, recommended against upgrading the west facility or tearing it down and building a new library branch at the same location.

The committee outlined two other possibilities: Erecting a new library on donated land at Sixth Street and National Avenue in West Terre Haute for about $700,000, or converting an existing child care facility into a library for about $600,000. The committee made no recommendations concerning those two options.

Jim Brown, a long-time board member and member of the branch committee, urged the board to stop studying options for a new west branch, something it has been doing for several years. The library does not have the money to open a new branch, he said. Brown made a motion that the board drop the subject. No other board members “seconded” the motion, so it died.

Terry Jones, also a member of the committee, then made a motion to “table” the matter for a month, giving non-committee members more time for consideration. That motion eventually passed.

No proposals were made to close the west branch, but fear that could happen clearly motivated a delegation of elected officials with constituents in West Terre Haute who spoke at the meeting.

State Sen. Tim Skinner, whose 38th District includes West Terre Haute, Vigo County Commissioner Judy Anderson, Vigo County Council President Bill Thomas and three members of the West Terre Haute Town Board all urged the board to maintain a west branch.

“My folks don’t have computers in their bedrooms” and need the computers and Internet access provided by the library, Thomas told the board. And kids in the town often walk to the library, he said.

Three members of the West Terre Haute town board joined the chorus. Two members, Nate Bartlett and Sheila Boatman, suggested it would be “selfish” for the library to renovate the main branch while not addressing the needs in West Terre Haute.

“We kind of feel segregated,” Boatman told the board. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Meanwhile, West Terre Haute Town Board president Scott McClain urged the board not to forget the importance of adult education services offered at the branch.

Sister Dorothy Rasche of the Sisters of Providence Connecting Link program, a social ministry serving West Terre Haute, also spoke to the board saying that making children walk to Terre Haute along National Avenue to access the main branch “would be a crime.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted without opposition to move forward with a proposed upgrade of the downtown branch. Those upgrades could take place in phases and would include relocating public computer terminals into a single area and adding a “teen room” on the main floor.

The library board’s next meeting is set for at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the main branch.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@ tribstar.com.

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