By Anna Guido
MARIEMONT - Hamilton County library cutbacks have prompted this school district to open its high school library to the public one night a week.
The library's extended hours, which began Nov. 13, will support community and after-school programs, including book clubs, poetry readings, guest lectures and information technology training.
"The things that we're doing with our library are so far ahead of what everybody else is doing - if another school library around is doing something similar, we haven't heard of it," said Principal Jim Renner.
A $150,000 grant from the Cinergy Foundation is helping fund the project.
"Part of the grant was to help expand our relationships with the community - to make the community more a part of the education process at Mariemont High School," Mr. Renner said.
"Another part was to open up our school to the community to work with them on research and technology skills."
Mariemont is one of six Ohio districts to maintain a perfect score on the state "Report Card" that measures academic performance. The district of 1,760 students is also on the cutting edge of infusing technology into its instructional process and library program.
Its open library is the latest example of partnering among schools, libraries and other educational institutions to meet the information technology needs of communities.
"I've not heard of anything like this in Cincinnati, but I've heard talk about it in other parts of the country," said Phyllis Hegner, a spokeswoman for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
The move comes on the heels of anticipated reductions - about $7 million in 2002 and 2003 - in state personal income tax collections, which help fund 95 percent of operating costs for the county library.
The library system has reduced hours at its 41 branches and main library. Besides cutting four to six hours from each branch, all branches will be closed on Sunday beginning in January.
Emily Zauss Colpi, Mariemont's library media specialist and a member of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association and the American Library Association, said Mariemont is following a national trend among high school libraries by providing services to the public.
In Ohio, Maumee High School near Toledo extended its library hours to the community six years ago. Hours are spread over mornings, afternoons and evenings.
"I get college students who don't feel like going to the college library, and I get senior citizens trying to learn the Internet," said Maumee librarian Cindy Bramson.
Extended hours at Mariemont High School, 3812 Pocahontas Ave., are 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays.
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