Big cuts coming to Sonoma County libraries

  • Kim Endoso, one of the children's librarians at the main branch, read a story during preschool story time held at the Sonoma County LIbrary, downtown, April 1, 2011.

Sonoma County public library hours would be cut by a quarter at most branches under a scheduling change proposed to help close a more than $1 million budget gap.

Beginning July 31, all library branches would be closed Sundays and Mondays under the proposed schedule except the Central Library in downtown Santa Rosa, which would remain open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The Monday closures mean all libraries would be dark on what's often one of the busiest days of the week, library staffers said.

Libraries would be open just two weekday mornings and two weekday evenings, forcing cutbacks in morning children's programs and class visits, as well as closing the library when some senior groups currently visit, the workers said.

Library Director Sandra Cooper said the proposed cuts are based on efforts to meet the needs of both children and adults, offering some mornings, some evenings and some weekend hours, and to give employees consecutive days off.

"It should be no surprise to anybody that the library is suffering along with every other public entity in California," Library Commissioner Mary Arnold said, one of seven library commission members.

"One way or the other, we are faced with another operating deficit this year," Cooper said in an email. "Right now, we have gotten it down to $1.05 million, and we have reduced expenditures as far as we can without reducing services since the decline in revenue began two years ago."

Board members said continued declines in property tax revenue — which supplies about 90 percent of the system's $15.9 million budget — mean the library cannot provide the same level of service to the Sonoma County community, which recorded 2.8 million library visits last year.

The goal is to compress library hours so nearly all staffers work the same 40-hour workweek and can be floated to other branches if needed for vacation or leave coverage, limiting use of substitutes, which in the current fiscal year will cost about $612,000, Cooper said.

Since the library is self-insured and would be liable for unemployment benefits, the move would save about $250,000 next year — perhaps $400,000 the following year, Cooper said.

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