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Residents reflect on sad day for library branches
4 locations will remain open
Sherry Lawson and daughter Jacey, 8, read together Wednesday afternoon in the Clermont library. Lawson said she is sad to see the closing of two Hall County libraries.

The Clermont library branch hasn't closed yet, despite what its empty parking lot may suggest.

But as Hall County Library Director Adrian Mixson waits on a "miracle," it seems it and other branches' fates may already be decided.

In preparation for an expected 20 percent cut in funding, the Hall County Library Board voted Tuesday to close the Clermont and East Hall locations effective July 1.

The other four locations will remain open, but with reduced operating hours.

According to Mixson, the Clermont and East Hall locations combine for less than 8 percent of the county's total library usage.

"It's kind of hard to justify continuing operation with so little usage," he said.

Nonetheless, Mixson doesn't want to see any locations close.

"It's a sad day for libraries in Hall County, but it's the only responsible thing to do in reflection of revenue for this next year," he said.

"Right now we're dealing with providing services with what we're funded. This is about the only option we have."

Mixson said he plans on terminating the Clermont building lease, but the East Hall branch will likely be maintained as a storage facility.

"We're going to use what we can use," he said indicating all computers would be moved to different branch locations.

"What we can't use, we'll put in storage. ... It won't be one big panic. It will be a month transition."

Tuesday's decision also means 21 part-time staff positions and four full-time employees will be terminated in July. Of the staff reductions, only one is due to a planned retirement, according to Mixson.

But as library officials plan for big changes, East Hall and Clermont residents are getting ready for long drives.

"For us to have to drive all the way to downtown (Gainesville), it's just really disappointing," Clermont resident Alan Morris said.

"I understand budgets have to be balanced, and I'm all for balancing the budget. I just wish North Hall wasn't treated like the red-headed stepchild."

Other locals shared a similar attitude, asking why North Hall is always the first to take cuts.

"It just seems like the south end of the county gets everything and we're left up here without anything," Laura Drury of Clermont said. "We have no ballfields, no library. It just seems like everything has been weighted down to the south end and we're left up here without anything."

But Mixson said the decision had nothing to do with punishing a particular area.

"It's not moving south. Right now it's a reflection of where we have experience with the most usage. ... Unfortunately it's going to be a little more difficult for some folks to take advantage of the library services," he said, pointing out Clermont is still within 20 minutes of the Murrayville and Gainesville branches.

"Maybe at some point in time we may be able to work out a different way of providing some kind of service, but we just haven't done that yet. We're dealing with one issue as it occurs."