Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Library to cut back hours

Sunday closures, doubled late fees planned

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        Hamilton County library patrons will soon have fewer branches to use on Sundays.

        Beginning Sept. 29, the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County is reducing hours at the main branch and all other locations an average of four hours per week as part of the fallout from a $4.3 million reduction of funds this year. At the same time, fees for not returning books and other materials will double.

        The downtown branch will still have Sunday hours but is closing at 5 p.m. Fridays, while the Anderson Township, Clifton, Sharonville, Symmes Township and North Central branches will close altogether on Sundays, leaving only the main, Green Township and Madeira branches with Sunday hours.

        “Because of the hiring freeze, we couldn't continue to provide the same level of service we had been,” said Amy Banister, library spokesperson.

        “The reduction in hours is primarily in the evenings or on Sundays. What we tried to do was spread out the (reductions) to give people an opportunity to have library service (all hours) as close as possible to their homes.”

        The reduction of hours varied from 3 1/2 hours to five hours per week depending on each branch's schedule, Ms. Banister said. Largely, the reductions are due to a hiring freeze instituted in June that has resulted in 75 positions not being filled, or slightly more than 8 percent of the workers, Ms. Banister said.

        “I would rather have reduced hours across the board during this budget crisis than closing branches if that's their only alternative,” said Joe Reitting, who is fighting to keep the Mount Healthy branch open.

        Fees for children's materials that are late will increase from 3 cents to 5 cents per day. The charge to adults for late materials will double from 10 cents to 20 cents per day while the late charge for all video or DVD's borrowed increases from $1 to $2 per day.

        Last year the library collected about $1 million in late fees from patrons and circulated 14 million items, Ms. Banister said.

        In late June the library learned its 2002 funding would be cut from $52.4 million to $48.1 million, leaving the library's board six months to reduce its budget by just more than $3.2 million. To do that, the board announced in July the closing of branches in Mount Healthy, Greenhills, Bond Hill, Elmwood Place and Deer Park.

        Those were slated to close Sept. 1 but the closings are now on hold pending further study and public hearings. Planned public hearing schedules in Bond Hill, Deer Park and Greenhills may be revised this week so all can end by Oct. 31.

        A hearing set for 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at Elmwood Place Elementary School will go forward as scheduled.

        The revision in the schedule will give the board time to review input before discussing the closings during a public board meeting set for 9 a.m. Nov. 11 at the downtown branch.

        A complete list of branch hour changes that will take effect Sept. 29 can be found at www.cincinnatilibrary.org


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