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Published: Saturday, 12/28/2002

Ohio's other big-city libraries open Sundays

BY JACK BAESSLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ciera Wilkinson, 10, of Sylvania looks over the book selection at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown. Ciera Wilkinson, 10, of Sylvania looks over the book selection at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown.
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With the recent decision to keep the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library system closed on Sundays as a cost-cutting measure, the libraries remain one of the only big-city systems in Ohio without Sunday hours.

Earlier this month, the library system said that all of its libraries would remain closed on Sundays through May to absorb state budget cuts.

In September, the system suspended Sunday hours at the three branches that offered them: The main branch downtown, the Heatherdowns branch in South Toledo, and the Sanger branch in West Toledo.

Despite the inconvenience, library officials say the public has gotten used to the move.

“I think people have accepted the fact we are closed on Sunday, so Saturdays are very big,” said Margaret Danziger, deputy director of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

More than $20 million in aid from the state in 2001 was reduced to about $18.4 million this year. Library officials said that canceling Sunday hours will save $167,000.

But other Ohio libraries facing the same reduction in aid have managed to keep Sunday hours.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system has Sunday hours year-round at its main library and eight regional branches. It didn't consider cutting the hours because they've been enormously successful, according to spokesman Larry Allen.

“They have proven to be our most popular hours,” he said.

The Columbus system has a local property tax that will provide about 43 percent of its annual budget in 2003. Still, officials reduced expenses by 3 percent during the last quarter of 2002 to compensate for the reduction in state aid, a move that included cuts to the materials budget and eliminating vacant positions.

In Cincinnati, the library system put the brakes on construction and renovation projects to help make up a $4.1 million reduction in state funds. It also imposed a hiring freeze and cut purchases of books and materials.

Cincinnati's main library and two branches have been open on Sundays, but beginning Jan. 5 only the main library will be open. The change saves money.

“Sundays are actually a very busy day for us,” Ms. Fender said. “We really wanted them at more branches.”

Until recently, the Cincinnati system maintained Sunday hours at more than a half dozen branches.

“Having them at least at main [library branch] gives people access to the largest facility,” she said. “It is a time people do use the library, and we do need to keep that.”

Cincinnati will cut costs with reduced weekday hours: some libraries will open at noon rather than 9 a.m. The revised schedule of hours will go into effect in January at more than three dozen branches.

Toledo library officials say such a move here would yield little savings.

Librarians are paid overtime to work Sunday hours. Employees can take compensatory time off on weekdays if they work on Sunday.

About 25 employees are needed to open Toledo's main library on Sunday, so using compensatory time to staff Sundays is not desirable. It would mean pulling librarians from weekday schedules to work Sunday hours, said John Hayward, president of the Toledo-Lucas County library board of directors.

“If you have a lot of people doing that, you are reducing services in a fairly haphazard, unpredictable way [on weekdays],” he said.

Toledo-Lucas County was one of the last big Ohio library systems to offer Sunday hours. For about 15 years beginning in 1978, the Sanger branch was the only library in the local system open on Sunday.

Sunday hours at Toledo's libraries date back to the 1800s. The library began offering Sunday hours in 1871, then stopped in 1878. Sunday hours resumed in 1883 and were stopped in 1931 as a cost-cutting measure during the Depression. The main library began offering Sunday hours again in 1994.

Library officials insist they want to return Sunday hours - when financial resources allow.

“Nobody is happy about this,” Ms. Danziger said.



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