Budget cuts to close most libraries on Thursdays

Starting Thursday, July 1, all library branches except Central Library will be closed, a library administrator said last week.

The Central Library will be open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, said Carolyn Sears, the library manager for publications and programs. All branches will be open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., she said, and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than 5:30 p.m.

The Board of Supervisors approved the county’s $701.2 million fiscal 2011 general fund budget in April. At the time, Budget and Management Director Allan Carmody said the expenditures in the budget had been scaled back to be on par with 1995 levels. The spending plan includes the loss of approximately 150 full- and part-time employees.

Initially, $1.5 million in budget reductions were proposed for Chesterfield County’s Public Libraries. Of that, $1.3 million was to be saved by reducing library hours at all branches the equivalent of one day; the department recommended closing all libraries on Thursday.

Several scheduling options were discussed, including using a seasonal schedule or closing half the branches one day and the other half on another day. Ultimately, $80,000 was added back to the library budget to keep the Central Library open 6 days a week.

“In the end, there were three or so [schedule] options that we presented,” Sears said. “That one appeared to be the most desirable. … It preserved service in the sense that the community would still have access to at least one of the branches. It was the most economical for the county.”

Thursdays represent about 14 percent of the libraries’ traffic, which is measured by a variety of factors, one of which is circulation figures, Sears said. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the system’s busiest days, she said. Friday and Saturday are also busy, but the library is also open fewer hours on those days.

“Thursday is the least busy day,” she said.

Signs have been or will soon be placed at all of the county’s libraries to alert patrons to the July 1 change, she said. The effects of the change will be felt immediately, since July 1, the start of fiscal 2011, happens to fall on a Thursday.

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