SHARECOMMENTMORE

HASTINGS, Fla. -- St. Johns County is weighing its options when it comes to the library in Hastings.

Some people in Hastings have feared the library will move or close.

First Coast News learned Tuesday the library will remain in Hastings, but it may move to a new location.

Adrienne Cook goes to the Hastings branch library several times a week.

"It's a vital resource for our little community," she said.

Like many people, she relies on the library. She checks her email and searches online for a full-time job.

Cook had also heard the talk around town about the library's uncertain future.

"I heard the library was going to shut down," she said.

The library serves the small town of about 600 people as well as surrounding communities such as Flagler Estates. Many people in the rural area live in or near poverty, so the library offers more than just books.

Rosa Tolbert is a great-grandmother in Hastings.

"There are a lot of parents who don't have cars. If a child needs materials, they can always come [to the library]," she said.

Doris Hjerling is a library patron and said, "It provides, particularly here in Hastings, a meeting place for people."

Cook pointed out "This is the closet resource to be able to go job hunting."

St. Johns County leases the space at the end of the former high school building from the town of Hastings.

Librarian Brad Powell says the county has some concerns about the maintenance of the building.

"Eventually you have to look at the health of patrons and employees," Powell explained. "So that's what we're doing."

The mayor of Hastings, Tom Ward, said every maintenance concern brought to the city's attention has been addressed. He also said the county pays nothing now to lease the space.

However, St. Johns County Commissioner Ron Sanchez said the county has put more than $60,000 into maintenance over the last five years because the town of Hastings couldn't afford the upkeep.

Sanchez provided First Coast News an email correspondence between the county's construction director and other employees about the Hastings Library. It reads: "For the previous years, the work orders provided for the Facilities Maintenance Report indicated the five year average from 2008 - 2012 was $12,499.29."

Sanchez told First Coast News he'd like the county to get out of that building.

Ward told First Coast News he has asked for but has not seen any documentation supporting the county's expenditures on maintenance for the building.

Librarian Powell said, "We've talked to the city and they're looking at the problems from their end, and they're investigating. They're looking at it and they're trying to figure out how to approach it. We work together well."

Powell said St. Johns County is indeed looking at other buildings in Hastings for the library. He said the county is also considering building a new branch there.

Without a doubt, he said there will be a library in Hastings.

"We want to keep a library in Hastings, one way or another," Powell affirmed.

That news brings some relief to library patrons like Cook. "That would be great. We need to keep our library!"

Ultimately, the decision about the library's future rests with the St. Johns County Commission.

SHARECOMMENTMORE