- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

The District’s public libraries are shifting hours and services beginning Oct. 5 to cope with a $4.8 million budget reduction.

The city’s pending budget for fiscal 2010 slashes library funding by nearly 11 percent. Library hours will change at all locations, however, services will continue to be available seven days a week. The library’s technology, supply and cleaning budgets all took hits to make sure staff jobs would be safe, library officials said.

Oct. 4 will be the last Sunday neighborhood libraries are open.

For the past two years, the District’s library system has seen financial decline as the city tightens its belt to survive a nationwide economic slowdown, and its effects have been felt in library hours, hiring and elsewhere. With this budget cut, D.C. public libraries will absorb the cost increases such as rent and other utilities.

If the city’s upcoming revenue projections are “dismal enough,” employment could be affected, said Nancy Davenport, director of library services.

“If we can hang on to where we are now, we think we’re OK,” Ms. Davenport said. “I don’t want to be overly optimistic. We couldn’t sustain this kind of cut year after year. We know the city and the mayor are making tough decisions. A library is not a fire department or a police department. We’re a valued public good, but we can’t be valued if we’re closed.

“We don’t have any place to go except into personnel.”

Library officials said they’ve purchased materials at cheaper rates and only those in demand.

“People might wait a little longer for holds, but we also have worked with facility staff to get things moving quickly around the District as people need them,” Ms. Davenport said. “These materials float to where they’re needed the most, and we’re using techniques to buy materials smartly.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C. Public Library’s centralized location, will be the only library open on Sundays year-round - closing all neighborhood libraries that day. The central location will be open from noon to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. All public libraries will be closed on Monday holidays.

The library’s bookmobile, which travels to a handful of schools, will not be used in the next fiscal year. However, library staff will continue to visit schools to provide literacy support to students.

Capital investments in recent years have enabled construction projects for the library system. Parklands- Turner and Northwest One will see the earliest openings, in October and November. Six more libraries are slated to open next year, with five additional libraries opening in 2011.

But the new construction projects could open buildings without enough staff to run them, which is why D.C. Public Libraries are asking for more volunteers to help with daily operations, Ms. Davenport said.

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