Library hours cut
CLARA BUONCRISTIANI of Napa reads to her 4-year-old daughter, Patricio, Wednesday at the Sonoma Valley Regional Library.
Access to the Sonoma Valley Regional Library will shrink beginning Aug. 1 because of budget constraints.
Monday, the seven-member Sonoma County Library Commission slashed hours for the main library in Santa Rosa and the 12 branches, including the Sonoma Valley Regional Library.
"It's unfortunate," said Marias Wap, of Glen Ellen. Wap brings her two children, 5-year-old Hayden and 3-year-old Clara, to the Sonoma Valley branch a couple of times a week.
"We come for story time on Tuesdays and the puppet shows and other shows on Wednesdays. The library is so important," she said. "It's a precious resource."
Currently, the Sonoma Valley library is open Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday,
Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it's closed on Sunday.
Effective Aug. 1, the library - as well as the other branches - will be open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be closed on Sunday and Monday.
Sandra Cooper, library director, said the library system, which receives about 91 percent of its revenues from property taxes, has seen revenue drop about 10 percent during the last two years.
The reduction in hours is expected to save more than $291,000 in the coming fiscal year and at least $375,000 in the following years.
"We've cut non-personnel operating costs and the unions have made both long-term and short-term concessions," Cooper said.
The county thought falling property taxes would level off this year, but they didn't, Cooper added. "We're going to continue to see small (property tax) decreases or no increases over the next few years," she said.
Cooper pointed out that more than 70 percent of the system's expenses are personnel-related.
"This isn't something we wanted to do to save money," she added. "We tried not to reduce services. But you can't continue to offer the same level of services when revenues are dropping."
Sonoma Valley library patron Ellen Schiff of Sonoma, said she wishes the library wouldn't do something as drastic as its doing.
"Maybe they could reduce daily hours instead of losing a Monday," Schiff said.
Schiff stops by the library almost daily on her way home from work to check her email and browse the newspapers.
"Being closed Sunday and Monday ..." she said, her voice trailing off.
The reduction in hours isn't something the library commission wanted to do either.
Mary Evelyn Arnold, the 1st District Library Commissioner, said reducing the library's hours was difficult, but necessary.
"Unless we can do something about the revenue side, all we can do is cut expenses," she said. "Personnel is a major expense, so we had to cut hours."
The commissioners set some parameters before cutting hours - the libraries had to be open on Saturday, they had to be open at least one evening a week and employees would receive two days off in a row
"We're only open one evening a week," Arnold said. "I think we need to be open two evenings."
"I don't like it," she continued. "But it's the best of the worst solutions."
Arnold said that it's a structural problem that requires a structural solution.
"We discussed ways of raising revenues, including a parcel tax," she said.
Sonoma Valley library patrons won't see the changes until the middle of August though, as the library is closing July 16 and moving to Burlingame Hall while the current building is remodeled. The temporary quarters in Burlingame Hall aren't expected to open until about the middle of August.