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Four-year-old Maggie Taylor, of Milltown, points to a DVD that she wants her dad, Chad, to check out during a recent trip to the Breeden Memorial Library in Leavenworth. Photos by Chris Adams

Patrons say BML special

Funding issues cloud Leavenworth branch's future

January 19, 2011
On a recent Thursday afternoon, 4-year-old Maggie Taylor, belly first on the floor of the Breeden Memorial Library in Leavenworth, excitedly held up a DVD she wanted her dad, Chad, to check out. Just a few feet away, her 1-1/2-year-old brother, Beau, played with some toys, and, a few feet in the other direction, Melissa Mayfield, 12, worked at a computer. On the other side of the building, teenagers Clay Fillbach and Rachel Harvey and adults quietly read and worked on a laptop.

In all, it was a normal day at the small library that has been serving not only Leavenworth but the surrounding communities for more than a decade.

The library's future, however, is in doubt. Despite no formal agreements able to be found, BML, with the assistance of annual contributions from Leavenworth native Doug Breeden, has operated under the auspices of the Crawford County Public Library in English. The continuation of those donations is uncertain and a likely reduction in funding due to recently passed property tax caps has the library board searching for a solution. Several possibilities are being bandied, but the one that has drawn the most attention is BML's potential closing. Patrons say the closing of the library would be a tremendous loss for the area.

Melissa Mayfield, 12, of Leavenworth, uses a computer at the library to check Facebook while waiting to be picked up by her mom.
One of those is Nancy Simon, of Milltown. Simon, who has home-schooled her nine children (ages 2-1/2 to 21), makes the 15-to-20-minute drive to BML every couple of weeks during the winter and more often in the summer, to supplement her teaching lessons.

"They have met my home-school needs," she said. "I wouldn't have had the richness of all the books, because there's no way I would have been able to buy them."

Simon also praised the library's summer reading program, which her children have attended for several years. The fun, hands-on activities, which include drawings for prizes, have encouraged them to pick up books outside of their school lessons, she said.

Coleen Fillbach, who lives a mile away from BML, has been taking her 15-year-old son, Clay, to the library since he was 4. He participated in the summer reading program when he was younger and still visits the library after school each Tuesday and Thursday, when it stays open until 7 p.m. It's not unusual for him to be there until almost closing time.

"He has learned how to use the library for school work, computers and books," Fillbach said, adding it also has helped develop his imagination. "I think it has helped his creativity."

She recalled attending an author's program at the library with Clay when he was about 10. The children wrote stories with their parents and shared them aloud with the group, with the author then giving tips.

"It was just wonderful," she said, adding everyone is treated the same and encouraged by staff and volunteers.

Fillbach said Clay isn't alone in going to the library after school. The secretary at Crawford County Junior High School, she said she writes several bus passes for students to be dropped off at BML.

"I've never been in a library that so catered to the needs of my children," Simon said.

Part of what makes Breeden Memorial special, Fillbach said, is the layout of the facility. The children's activities are in the basement, which allows kids to have fun without worry of disrupting other patrons.

"There's nothing wrong with the library being fun," she said.

In addition to area residents, Leavenworth Elementary School, because of its proximity, also uses BML, Principal Mike Key said. While various classes make use of the library's resources, school officials also encourage children to visit the library after school and on weekends, offering rewards for those who do, he said.

Even more important, however, Key said, is the secure environment it offers children after school.

"It provides a safe haven for our children. That's probably the biggest thing," he said.

Fillbach and Simon both said that, if BML were to close, they likely wouldn't go to another library.

"We couldn't because it would be a lot farther for us to go to English or Corydon," Simon said.

"It's too easy, it's right there and we feel like we're such a part of it," Fillbach said of the Leavenworth library, adding part of what is attractive for BML's patrons is they "feel like it's their library."

Key agreed, saying, "I would see very few of our people traveling to English" since the Harrison County Public Library at Corydon is closer. But, even then, many probably wouldn't make the trip there either, he said.

Fillbach said the staff, including Sharon Harvey and formerly Nicki Esarey, have made it a "very helpful, family-oriented place."

Simon echoed Fillbach, saying the staff are "more personable" than at some libraries and "go out of their way to help you."

To save money, the library board reduced the hours at BML and the license for Friday movie night wasn't renewed. However, that may not be enough. Board members have openly said the only option may be to close the facility, explaining that sustainment of the main library at English is their top priority.

Fillbach said she has communicated with board members the importance of BML to Leavenworth and the surrounding communities.

Since the town of Leavenworth already owns the building in which the library is located (other tenants include the Leavenworth Community Center and the Crawford County United Ministries Food Pantry), some would like for the town to take it over. That likely would mean the addition of a tax rate, and while some, like Fillbach, would be agreeable, it is uncertain if the majority of town residents would, as well.

"If I won the lottery," Fillbach said, "I swear I'd pay their lease forever, and I know I'm not the only one to feel that way."

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