In Dillingham, the library has scaled down its operating hours in recent months to adjust to a smaller staff. The change is not sitting well with some patrons.
In October, the Dillingham Public Library reduced its hours by a quarter. It’s open 30 hours a week instead of 40 hours. The reason, says city manager Rose Loera, is that the library is down one of the two half-time librarians accounted for in the 2017 budget.
“One of the half-time positions, she resigned,” Loera explains. “So we chose not to fill that position at this time to see whether or not the library can function with the one half-time librarian.”
Loera says that the city is operating on a lean budget that is mostly comprised of salaries. So when it makes cuts, one of the first places the city has to look is at positions.
“If we were to decide on having to reduce our budget even more, there would be a number of factors that would play into that,” she says. “We would look into whether or not it’s an eyssential service, whether or not we’re regulated in these areas and we need to have these positions. See the majority of our budget is positions. It’s not things that we can cut. I think we’ve cut the majority that we can already.”
Sonja Marx is the head librarian at the Dillingham public library. She says that the change in hours caught some patrons off guard. But now that they are down to four part-time employees, it was the only viable option.
“It kind of surprised several people, I’m sure, because they are so used to the library being open 40 hours a week,” says Marx. “But with a 20 hour a week position not here, we’re already short staffed. So the only answer we could find was to cut the hours.
The library serves over 2000 visitors a month. In the summer, often as many as 400 visitors a day. Marx says that they are down to the bare bones, but they are making it work. They’ve shifted the hours around this month to try to accommodate as many library-goers as possible.
“We found that the hours we have are meeting the needs of all patrons,” says Marx. The library is open after school every day, and it is open six hours a week outside of the eight-to-five workday.
Still, the change isn’t sitting well with some of the library’s regular patrons. Sydnie Ewing says she and her family are feeling the impact of the reduced hours.
“I found it really frustrating lately because I’m used to the old hours, and my kids love coming here.”
But with the change in hours, she says, they have come less often in the last few months.
“We’ve really, over the Christmas break, kind of felt like little shut-ins. We miss our library hours. We want them back.”
In order to add those hours back, the city would have to fill the vacant position. The city has not decided yet whether to include it in the 2018 budget.
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