County supervisors oppose change to library hours

Under pressure from several cities, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday backed away from a proposal that would have allowed the county's 11 largest library branches to have different operating hours.

Advocates pushed for the change as part of revisions to the county library system's joint powers agreement, seeking to give communities flexibility to keep branches open longer if money could be raised for that purpose.

But supervisors Tuesday unanimously opposed the idea amid concerns that allowing different branch hours risked an unequal level of access and service.

"This is a regional library system. Let's get rid of any sense that 'this is my library and that's all I'm going to support,'" Supervisor Susan Gorin said.

Shirlee Zane, who was the only supervisor opposed to giving branches flexibility on hours when the board reviewed an earlier proposal in September, reiterated her stance Tuesday that "social equity" is a "fundamental philosophy of libraries."

County supervisors launched a review of the 1975 joint powers agreement 14 months ago amid a torrent of criticism over former Library Director Sandy Cooper's management style and the Library Commission's perceived acquiescence to her demands.

The review committee, led by north county Supervisor Mike McGuire, circulated proposed changes that would give nine cities a voice in library governance. That includes Cotati, which does not have a library branch.

Currently, the Library Commission's seven members are appointed by county supervisors and officials in the cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

All 11 of the largest library branches operate with the same hours, with the exception of the central branch in Santa Rosa, which unlike the others is open Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m. All branches are closed Mondays.

In a Dec. 4 letter to supervisors, Healdsburg Mayor Susan Jones said city leaders there would not support the revised joint powers agreement if it allowed for additional hours at individual library branches, which Jones called a "logistical nightmare" that "destroys the sense of a library system."

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