Though not as big as other libraries in the area, the Mansfield Public Library is considered a valuable asset to its community.
The library, located in the back of Mansfield City Hall at 200 N. Sebascott Ave., is one of three branches in the Sebastian County Library System. The main library is in Greenwood. The other two branches are in Lavaca and Hartford and are open part-time, with one part-time clerk at each branch.
Mansfield Mayor Glen Hurt said he knows his city, with a population of 1,139, may be smaller than other branch locations, but the library is an important part of the city.
"It’s important for us to be able to provide a service to our patrons and to the people of this city," Hurt said. "We’ve seen people in here doing everything from checking out a book to getting a quote for the Affordable Care Act to filing their taxes. The library is unique for that reason — there’s no other source in town to use computers. It’s a good source."
The library is about 50 years old and has called city hall its home for more than 20 years. In the last three years, it more than tripled in size, from 275 to 816 square feet, when the police department moved to a new location off U.S. 71.
With the expansion, the library also grew in inventory.
Thanks to the county library system, which operates on a $250,000 budget, the library is furnished with additional shelving, books and computers, but Hurt said he would like to expand its hours as well.
"We’d like to be open more," Hurt said. "It’s a priority to increase our hours. I’d like for us to maybe get some additional signage to let people know where we are. We’ve got people who come in here and quite a bit come in to read books, especially in the summer, but we’d like to be able to serve more. There’s demand, and we’d like to see it made available more often."
Librarian Anna Carter agreed.
"We always strive to make it the best as it can be," Carter said. "I’d like to see it grow, because there’s so many people around Mansfield that don’t know it’s here. We have a good selection of books, something for everybody."
Carter said new titles are brought in for reading on a rotation every two weeks through the library system. She said the library will request titles for readers and encourages citizens to donate their used books for an annual book sale or for use in the library.
The county is in the process of completing a library study to determine ways to allow for additional space, programming and expanded hours. The study, conducted by Texas-based library consulting firm Averus Corp., is scheduled to be completed in late February. The library board will review the recommendations of the study and submit its findings to the Sebastian County Quorum Court for approval.
The Mansfield library itself is only part of what makes it a valuable commodity to the community. Her colleagues say Carter makes the library valuable.
"She makes attending the library so pleasant," said city recorder-treasurer Becky Walker. "She has that special touch and is easy to work with, which is something you can’t say about a lot of people."
Hurt agreed, saying Carter encourages the community to learn.
"She’s a wonderful person and is always glad to visit and work with people. Her mother-in-law managed that library for a long time, before she took over," Hurt said. "She is what makes that place great, because she encourages our community to read and learn."
Like her mother-in-law before her, Carter has served as librarian in Mansfield for almost 20 years, simply because she "always wanted to be."
"She is the library, there’s no question," said Library System Clerk Rene Myers. "She’s very welcoming and helpful whenever I’m there. She knows her patrons and knows what genres they like. She’s an avid reader, which makes her a perfect fit for the job. People would not be coming there if they didn’t feel welcome, and she’s the reason for that."
Library System Director Judy Clevenger also recognized Carter’s value.
"She’s been a valuable assistant to our system," Clevenger said. "She helps promote our Friends of the Library program and helps sell it. She knows that community. She’s active in the church, had children in school, and she’s involved in the community keeps her eyes and ears open. Their library is the oldest of any branches in the system and is an important asset to our system."
The Mansfield branch is open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.