Libraries may cut days, hours
Library patrons could find county libraries open fewer days and hours come Aug. 1.
Because of funding shortfalls, the Sonoma County Library Commission will be discussing a proposal at Monday's meeting that would close libraries on Mondays and shorten hours the remaining five days a week.
Under the proposal, county libraries would be closed Sunday and Monday, and would be open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
"We're looking at a proposal to change service hours," said Mary Evelyn Arnold, 1st District Library Commissioner.
"We have a deficit that we need to close," she said. "We can't continue to operate like we have."
The proposal to cut days and hours is one of several the commission has looked at in order to reduce its operating deficit.
"We've discussed many options," Arnold said. "And this appears to be the best one."
She said the decision to cut days and hours didn't come easily.
Most of the county libraries are currently open 52 hours a week and all will be cut to 40 hours. The Central Library in Santa Rosa is open 54 hours a week and it will be pared to 44 hours.
In addition to cutting hours, the commission is planning to lay off all of its substitutes as of July 31.
With the reduction in hours and the substitute layoffs, the library estimates a minimum cost savings of $250,000 in the coming fiscal year.
"I wish we could go back to the budget we had four years ago," Arnold said.
The library commission is wrestling with how to pare a $1 million funding shortfall next fiscal year.
"The actions we're taking won't eliminate the deficit," Arnold said, "but it will go a long way toward it."
Arnold said the library system receives 85 percent if its funding from property taxes which have been declining during the last couple of years.
"And next year isn't supposed to be a whole lot better," she added.
The library system does get some state money, but Arnold said that under the governor's proposed budget solution, it would lose about half of what it gets. But because there probably won't be a special election in June to help balance the state budget, Arnold said she has no idea what that will do to funding. She's not optimistic, though.
The library has already cut its materials budget.
"We can't buy the books and DVDs we used to buy," she said. "We have to make some changes."
According to the library system's budget, people costs, such as salaries and benefits, account for 70 percent of the $15.8 million budget.
The library commission will be looking at the proposed cuts at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 4, at the Central Library, 211 E St. in Santa Rosa.