The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 7, 2013

Committee researching grants to help fund Seneca library; June 30 closure deadline looms

By Roger McKinney

SENECA, Mo. — With a June 30 deadline, members of a committee seeking ways to keep the Seneca public library open are beginning to step off their efforts.

Josh Dodson, president of the Seneca Chamber of Commerce, said the committee’s focus now is on finding possible grants that would help fund the library, formally the Seneca branch of the Neosho-Newton County Library.

“The Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to trying to find any way possible to keep the Seneca branch open, because it’s so vital to our community and to our school,” Dodson said.

The library was scheduled to close on Nov. 1, with the board citing financial constraints. Newton County voters last year defeated a ballot issue to increase the countywide levy for the library by 15 cents, to 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Approval would have increased the Neosho-Newton County Library budget by about $800,000 annually.

A petition drive, initiated by the Seneca chamber, collected 2,100 signatures that resulted in the library board voting to allow the organizers until June 30 to find a financing solution for the Seneca branch.

“My life’s in limbo,” said Mitzi Thurman, Seneca library branch manager, about the library’s status. She also is a member of the committee trying to keep it open.

She was asked about her level of confidence about finding a solution.

“I hope we can find some things that can at least supplement our revenues, so we can stay open,” Thurman said.

Dodson said the committee also is reaching out for ideas from area residents. The committee has established a Facebook page, Save the Seneca Branch of the Neosho-Newton County Library, to which ideas may be submitted.

People also may contact committee members: Dodson; Thurman; library patrons Susan Wohlenhaus, of Seneca, Susan Herbert, of Racine, and Mary Largent, of Loma Linda; library board members Kevin Hatfield and Suzanne Brown Hatfield; and Seneca branch staff member Georgia Wilkes.

“We’re trying to find some grants to try to keep the Seneca library alive and going,” Dodson said. “We’ve had a lot of input from all over the place from people who’ve reached out to us.”

Cronkite quote

THE FACEBOOK PAGE Save the Seneca Branch of the Neosho-Newton County Library had 128 “likes” on Monday. A post by a visitor to the page included a quote attributed to newsman Walter Cronkite: “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”