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Published: Thursday, 8/27/2009

Lucas County libraries to cut hours

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Isabel Guerrero, 11, counts on using the Internet at the West Toledo branch of the Toledo-Lucas County library to do homework and school projects every week.

But the Blessed Sacrament grade schooler may need a new study spot. With the library's shrinking budget, operating hours at most branches will be cut soon.

Isabel's library will be open until 8:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, but her after-school sports and activities wouldn't allow her enough time to study at the library before it closes at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays.

"It's not as convenient," Isabel's mom, Molly Rahe, said yesterday. "We like having the library open until 9."

Toledo-Lucas County library trustees voted unanimously yesterday to cut branch hours to about eight per working day and reduce most branches to five days a week. The changes take effect Oct. 5.

Shortened schedules and the elimination last month of part-time positions could save about $3.6 million, administrators said.

"We have to live within our means," Library Director Clyde Scoles said after the vote. "That's what libraries across Ohio are doing."

Hours at all branches will change to noon to 8:30 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The new schedule will eliminate about 27 percent of the library's hours, administrators said.

Saturday hours will end at nine branches: Birmingham, Lagrange, Maumee, Mott, Reynolds Corners, South, Washington, Waterville, and West Toledo.

Four branches - Kent, Locke, Point Place, and Toledo Heights - will be closed on Mondays.

Five branches - Main, Heather-

downs, Holland, Oregon, and Sylvania - will operate six full days.

Sanger, on West Central Avenue in the Westgate area, will remain the only branch open seven days a week.

Audrey Bolden-King was sitting in a quiet corner in the children's section of the Washington branch yesterday sketching the likeness of jazz legend Billie Holliday from a borrowed book.

She was surprised and worried to learn that the branch will be open only five days a week.

"The library is so important for education," she said. "I think it will be devastating to have less hours."

Another library user, Cathy Kosakowski, agreed.

"I'm not happy about it," she said, holding a stack of children's books in one hand and the hand of her 3-year-old grandson, Sebastian Stevens, in the other. "I know a lot of people that come on Saturdays."

Steven Glover isn't too worried, and said the new schedule probably won't affect his family.

He was reading to his 3-year-old, Selah, as his three other daughters, who are home-schooled, scanned the shelves at the West Toledo branch yesterday.

"We all have to do our part as far as balancing the budget," Mr. Glover said. "I'm for making cuts instead of increasing taxes."

Mr. Scoles emphasized that the new hours will protect most children's programming.

He acknowledged that the changes are likely to mean that library branches will discontinue those programs scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

During the board meeting, President Susan Savage had said, "I hope this is a small blip in time and that we can soon restore services."

The library expects to lose $2.4 million this year and $4.2 million in 2010 because of the reduction in state funding and a possible 10 percent to 15 percent drop in local property tax collections.

"It's a double whammy," Mr. Scoles said.

Last month, trustees tried to cope with the shortfall by eliminating the jobs of about 60 pages, who shelve books part time.

In addition, about 33 eligible staff were offered early retirement incentives, an option that will end Nov. 30.

Representatives from both of the library labor groups, the Communications Workers of America and the Association of Public Library Employees, told trustees yesterday that unionized workers expect those at the top of the pay scale to share the financial burden.

"We do feel this pain has got to be felt across the board," Harry Johnston, CWA library unit director, said. "Eventually it has to be shared from the top down."

Pay freezes for administrators and exempt employees are expected to save the library about $234,000.

If unions agree to concessions, the library could save about $293,000. The savings were estimated based on the average 3 percent annual raise, said Roger Veitch, library business manager.

Also yesterday, the board reviewed a plan to save about $7.4 million next year, including the new schedules and the changes made in July. Among those planned measures are suspending pay increases for union members through 2010, freezing pay for administrators and exempt staff, and increasing library late fines and copy charges.

Effective Oct. 5, fines will increase to 20 cents a day from 10 cents for books, and copying will increase from to 15 cents a page from 10 cents with a library card and to 20 cents a page from 15 cents with cash.

Boosting late fees and printing charges could draw $85,000 in new revenue, according to a document distributed to library trustees yesterday. The increase is the first since 1986, administrators said.

Other local libraries have suffered since state funding shrank by 11 percent.

Rossford's cut the book budget by 35 percent and canceled the school district bookmobile in Perrysburg Township. It will close on Sundays during the school year and will charge employees more for medical benefits.

Also in Wood County, libraries in Bowling Green and Walbridge closed for a week in August, permanently reduced hours, increased fines, and slashed spending on new materials and technology. Pemberville Public Library is closed on Fridays, and two employees retired and returned to work part time.

Harris-Elmore and Genoa libraries are closed on Saturdays through Sept. 12.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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