SUNNY HILLS – Efforts to save the Sunny Hills Library have been successful.
Washington County Commissioners voted January 25 to keep the branch open following a three-month trial basis of expanding the library's weekly hours.
The branch opened seven years ago, but low patronage made officials question whether the its $8,000 to $14,000 annual price tag was justified.
Residents spoke up about their community library, however, explaining that low patronage numbers were a result of the previous hours of just 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays not being conducive to the community's needs.
In September, the board allowed Washington County Library System Director Renae Rountree a last effort to keep the branch open.
Rountree developed a trial five-day schedule for the three-month trial, and the branch saw a jump in patronage with peak days being Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Based on that information, Commissioners tasked Rountree with coming back with a schedule and cost estimates that would have the Sunny Hills library open a comparable number of hours as other branches roughly the same size.
The branch will be now be open 24 hours a week with the $9,000 operating cost for the rest of the fiscal year coming from the library’s contingency fund.
Rountree says she is pleased the library will stay open but reminds the community that the key is support.
"I urge the community to continue to support the library so we so not see a decrease in numbers and help prevent this issue from coming up again," said Rountree. "We never want to decrease services, but at the same time, we need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars."
Like all public libraries, rural libraries like Sunny Hills rely on a combination of federal, state and local funds. Because the revenue generated from property taxes is generally lower in rural than urban areas, rural libraries are often awarded equalization grants, which fall under the umbrella of State Aid to Public Libraries.
The budget addition from the county will help the library receive more funding from the State Aid to Public Libraries grant, which gives a 50-cent match for every dollar funded by the county.
The Sunny Hills Library is now open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.) Tuesday through Thursday