Reduction in library hours angers patrons | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Reduction in library hours angers patrons

Sheila Gardner / The Record-Courier

Jonah M. Kessel / Tribune file photo Circulation Librarian Deborah Blackman, left, and Support Service Librarian Luise Davis talk in the Zephyr Cove Library. Budget cuts in Douglas County have forced the library to reduce its hours.

Effective this week, Douglas County Public Library patrons have fewer hours to browse for books.

Library Director Linda Deacy said some patrons are angry about the changes “and have made really unpleasant comments to the staff.”

The remarks prompted Deacy to post a letter to patrons explaining that the cutbacks and staff reduction are a last resort in the face of county budget shortfalls.

“Some library users have made extremely negative comments to staff about the reductions,” Deacy said. “They seemed to think we cut out services before we reduced positions.”

At the county’s library in Zephyr Cove, hours have been reduced from 40 per week to 32 per week by closing the library on Tuesdays.

Beginning in August, there will be fewer friendly faces to assist library users.

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Deacy said she had to lay off five part-time employees effective in mid-August. One full-time position, vacant since October, will not be filled.

“The number of library staff will be reduced by 30 percent,” Deacy said. “We are losing six positions out of 18.”

Originally, full-time employees were willing to cut hours in order to preserve the part-time jobs. But Deacy said the county’s employee association turned down the plan.

“I started giving out layoff notices to part-timers last week,” she said. “It was heart-wrenching to know you have that effect on someone’s life.”

She said the staff cuts total 70 hours per week, ranging from six hours per week for one employee to just more than 20 hours. None of the employees worked enough hours to qualify for unemployment.

“We have a great staff; most have been here a long time. People love to work at the library,” Deacy said.

In addition, she said some electronic services have been discontinued, and periodical subscriptions have been reduced or eliminated.

“The reality is the funding is just not there,” Deacy said. “The commissioners made some attempts to increase funding for our budget through sales tax and real-estate taxes, but those dollars are just not there.”

Deacy said the library staff and Board of Trustees began working 18 months ago on contingency plans.

“We listed all the programs we deliver and did an in-depth evaluation of which ones were essential, core programs. We said, ‘Let’s see if we can get other people to deliver some of those programs,’ ” she said.

For example, the town of Minden agreed to take over the Letters to Santa program.

She said the library has no plans to abandon school visits or trips to the youth detention facilities at China Spring and Aurora Pines. They may be less frequent but won’t be discontinued.

Deacy said there will be no changes in the summer reading program that drew 800 children last year. “It’s our biggest program,” she said.

She praised her staff and the library’s 125 active volunteers. “They have been just sensational,” Deacy said.

Deacy said she is willing to speak to any patron about the cuts.

“We greatly value the support given to us by our library patrons and the community over the past 41 years, and it is our avid hope that these services, hours and staffing levels will be able to be restored in future years,” she said in a letter to patrons.

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