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In 2015, voters in the MidPointe Library district approved renewing the five-year, 0.75-mill levy that helps to cover operating expenses for the system with branches in Middletown, West Chester Twp., Monroe and Trenton.
Levy monies make up 40 percent of MidPointe’s funding, according to library officials.
Officials had said in 2015 that without a levy renewal, library hours and staffing would be reduced, new material and technology budgets would be cut, programming would be eliminated, and facility growth would be halted.
FROM 2015: Library levies overwhelmingly approved by Butler County voters
The library inked a rent-free lease agreement for three years minimum, with opportunities for renewal, according to documents obtained by this news outlet through a public records request.
MidPointe’s board has not awarded a construction contract yet to the lowest bid for construction — $335,900 — but hopes to do so at its June meeting, Bautz said.
Asked why the space wouldn’t go to a paying retail tenant instead, Beau Arnason, executive vice president of Liberty Center developer Steiner + Associates, said it was always envisioned for a use that would be complementary to the Cincinnati Children’s Discovery Zone.
“They both represent community gathering areas along with the Living Room and Cub House Party Room downstairs,” Arnason said. “It continues our strategy of activating community spaces such as the Park, the Square, Sabin Hall and the Tri-Health unity chapel.”
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Bautz said retail or mall locations are not uncommon for library systems, as they offer “plenty of convenience” for both shoppers and library patrons. The Dayton Metro Library had a Dayton Mall location for many years, until their stand-alone Miami Twp. location was built nearby as a permanent location for area residents, he said.
The benefits to this particular location are many, Bautz said.
“The mall location is conveniently located near parking which will allow for easy access of the public library space as well as drive-up returns for busy library patrons,” he said. Also, the space is adjacent to the extremely popular Discovery Zone kids play area. MidPointe Library has been doing weekly storytimes at Liberty Center’s Discovery Zone — in partnership with Liberty Center Mall and Liberty Children’s Hospital — on Friday mornings since 2015.
Liberty Twp. is “a large gap” in the MidPointe Library System’s service area, something its board of trustees has been examining for several years, Bautz said.
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A Liberty Center branch will allow the library system to expand its operations and services to area residents who are traveling to other West Chester, Middletown, Monroe or Trenton branches for public library services, he said.
In 2017, the library averaged 58 attendees per week for its weekly, hourlong Friday storytime event there for a total of 3,004 for the year, Bautz said. Weekly averages varied depending on the time of year, with a low of 34 attendees per week during fall and holiday months to a high of 83 per week during winter and summer months.
Bautz said those statistics show the library that there are a number of families with young children who frequently attend events.
“The Liberty Center location will allow us to expand our array of library services and programs for all ages beyond Friday mornings, both inside the mall and outside to the community as a whole (including) daycares, schools, community centers (and others),” he said.