Strong Mayor Daryell Howell reassured residents at Thursday’s City Council meeting that the library will not be closing.
Regarding rumors that the library would be closing and turned into a fitness center, Howell said he “did not know where that information came from and has never stated anything about closing the library.”
However, the city recently decided to change internet and phone providers to cut costs. They were using AT&T, which cost the city around $160 per month, and decided to switch to Birch Communications, which will only cost around $50 per month.
Nancy Arn, interim library director for Barton Library, spoke on behalf of the Strong Library at the meeting, updating the council on programs the library is planning to implement in the near future.
One program all Barton Library branches will be adding is a notary service, Arn said.
“In addition, we have been talking with South Arkansas Community College for the library to become a classroom,” Arn said. “They want to offer courses here in Strong so that people wouldn’t have to drive to El Dorado all the time for classes or notary public.”
The Strong Library has been supported by the city for more than 40 years.
“It is the only place that I know of in this community that offers free internet access and also programs for children in the summer,” Arn said. “It’s a valuable community asset.”
Howell said during the transition of switching internet providers that “it took AT&T weeks to get the transition over.”
Nelia Jones, Strong Library’s branch manager, said that the internet was disconnected on Dec. 19 and she was never told that the city was switching providers.
The internet is currently not backed up because of complications, which are supposed to be sorted out next week, Jones said.
“I just wanted to hear that (the mayor) wasn’t going to close the library,” Jones said. “So that’s the important thing.”
Strong resident John Beauregard said he goes through 200 to 300 books a year and that he “doesn’t want to go to El Dorado or Crosset to get a book.”
Howell said officials do evaluate the city’s budget every year and had previously called Arn to ask if the city had an agreement with the library to show to auditors.
“That was just simply asking for an agreement,” Howell said. “We’ve supported the library 100 percent and there was nothing that I indicated to anyone that anything different would be happening.”
Arn asked to get a local agreement with the city that could be made formal at a later date, to which Howell agreed.
Howell added that the city has received a donated building to use for the fitness center that will not affect the library.
Starting Thursday, Barton Library and all of the branches began training to have automation countywide, which will allow the libraries to be computerized “so we all know what’s going on in every library and what books are in every library,” Arn said.
Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.