The Hall County Library System is looking at reopening its East Hall branch but with a different look.
Adrian Mixson, library system director, told the system’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday night the Old Cornelia Highway branch, which was closed in July 2011 after budget cuts, could take on some of the technology functions now at the main branch in downtown Gainesville.
The move then could help free up room for children’s services and programs at the main branch, which have drawn up to 300 people at a time, he said.
“I think we can do this with existing staff,” Mixson told the board, adding this “is an opportune time to take advantage of some state resources. ... I have to start working on grant money.
“If we’re going to do it, this is the time, because I’m not sure if we’ll ever have quite the same opportunity.”
Mixson said the East Hall branch would still serve the public, “but it won’t be the library it was.”
“Most of the people who used East Hall only used it for one primary purpose — the Internet.”
Board Chairman Andy Henderson said after the meeting, “It’s primarily going to house a lot of services that would free up room at (the main) library and at Blackshear Place (in South Hall), so we can provide better services to the constituents. It’s a building in our group that’s not being used for anything right now.”
Patrons may be able to request that materials be delivered to the East Hall branch for later pickup.
“There’s not going to be books on the shelves or anything like that,” Henderson said.
The East Hall and Clermont libraries were closed — and hours were cut at remaining branches — after a 20 percent cut in local funding from the Hall County Board of Commissioners. The system ended up with 25 fewer employees, only one of whom had planned to retire.
At the time, Mixson made his recommendation for which libraries should close based on use: numbers of visitors, borrowed books and computer users.
With some 35,240 visitors, the East Hall Library had the second-lowest number of visitors in 2010, above only Clermont, which had fewer than 10,000 visits, Mixson’s data showed.
In contrast, the Blackshear Place and Spout Springs branches each served more than 100,000 people in 2010. More than 200,000 people visited the Gainesville branch.
The East Hall branch is empty except for shelving, Mixson said.
“Shelving makes the easiest walls, so it’s prime right now,” he said. “It took us almost two years to get rid of everything.”
The building “is in pretty good shape,” Mixson said.
The board was poised to put off discussion of the matter until board member Sandra Cantrell raised a few questions.
“I just got asked by the county to pull discussion of the reopening,” Mixson said.
Henderson added: “There are some negotiations, actions or talks being held, and (the county) asked that we don’t take any official action until a later time.”
Later in the meeting, after Cantrell’s questioning, Henderson said Mixson would “find out everything he can and, at our next meeting (on Nov. 19), we’ll be prepared to discuss it again.”
West Hall Commissioner Billy Powell, the Board of Commissioners’ representative to the library board, left the meeting early and couldn’t be reached later for comment.