Yes, the Hunt Branch of the Fullerton Public Library is closed until further notice, and that notice is probably not going to come any time soon. Although the Library’s Board of Trustees closed the Hunt on March 28 with an emergency vote, no official information about the closure has been available on the city’s website or the library’s site.
Instead, the city and library seem to be relying on the local website Fullerton Stories to report first, on April 1, that the Hunt would be open during its usual truncated schedule of Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then, strangely, later that same day, that the Hunt would in fact be closed and all of its programs relocated to other facilities, including neighboring Grace Ministries.
Why the contradictory information, and just what were the exact circumstances leading to the emergency closure? Evidently, the city does not consider a closure of a library important enough for a press release.
An “Adjourned Meeting” of the Board of Trustees held in the Main Library’s Community Room on April 3 revealed more details about the closure, but nothing specific about why it became so necessary so suddenly last week. Instead, the trustees discussed what a sorry state the site was in and what they could and couldn’t do about it. There is no money for it expected in the next fiscal year’s budget unless the trustees and the interested public can wrangle it from the city council in the coming months. And it turns out that the additional operating funds allocated by the city council in the immediate past were taken from the library’s own reserves, and not the city’s General Fund, leaving the library no better off financially than they were before.
Trustee Chair and Retired City Manager Chris Meyer indicated that current City Manager Joe Felz intends to ask the City Council to defund the Hunt Branch for a two year period as a “temporary” action. Mr. Meyer responded to a story in Fullerton Rag on March 29 with the clarification that the Norton Simon Foundation had “released its reverter clause in the gift deed, and the facility is now unfettered by its requirement to solely be a library…”
One plan reportedly being considered is for neighboring Grace Ministries to take over the Hunt facility as its own administrative offices while the William Pereira designed office building on its property undergoes a renovation, but no details of such a plan were discussed Wednesday. Indeed, despite predictions by Mr. Meyer of “an opportunity for a renaissance of the facility, and the adjacent park” nothing has been proposed thus far to allow the public to know just what is happening with the site.
One has to wonder where the Fullerton Public Library Foundation, so effective at raising funds for the Main Library expansion in 2011, is at this critical moment. Although the The FPL Foundation is supposed to raise funds to augment city monies, and not replace them, one could hope they would take notice of the closure of one of the city’s two library branches and offer some form of assistance.