Library hours will change May 1 to reduce budget

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Austin Public Library will soon be opening later and closing later certain days of the week to reduce costs.

Decreasing its hours from 68 to 64 per week is just one cut in an effort to balance both staffing and services, said Ann Hokanson, library director, during a city council work session Monday.

Library reductions — including holding off a lighting and remodeling project and freezing a librarian position — will save the City of Austin about $126,000 in 2009-10.

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One librarian, who is retiring and whose position is proposed for a freeze in 2009 and 2010, was in charge of children’s services.

Hokanson said the library can “still offer children’s services — that is not necessarily sustainable forever.” She said the library is not in a position to absorb cuts to its $1 million budget without some staffing changes.

“We spend about $150,000 on materials per year,” Hokanson said. “Buying fewer books is not sustainable longer than six months.

“We’re in a position where I can say to you … our services to the public, we are not ‘gutting’ them,” she said.

Beginning May 1, hours will change to 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and will stay 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The library is closed on Sunday during the summer.

Currently, the library opens at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closes at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We’re very, very busy on Friday right up until 5 p.m.,” Hokanson said. “We could make good use of the extra hour.”

With Albert Lea closing its library on Sundays and the Riverland Community College library’s limited hours and space, Hokanson said their evening and Sunday hours are appropriate for its users.

Although projects have been put on hold at the library, some purchases, like a new self-checkout machine, are necessary. The machines allow visitors to check out books without a staff person’s assistance.

Hokanson said she supports the decision to freeze the librarian position.

“This is the thing to do for the library for the next could years,” she said.

The library cuts will be on the agenda at the next regular council meeting, Monday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.