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Date of Issue: June 18, 2008

Reduced hours planned for libraries

This chart shows the proposed expenditures in Manatee County's proposed 2008-09 budget. Meetings are taking place this month in preparation for a September adoption of the budget.

Patron after patron walks up the steps to find a locked door at the Island Branch Library on Wednesday mornings.

Hours were shortened throughout Manatee County’s library system earlier this year in a cost-cutting campaign.

More patrons may find the Holmes Beach library’s door locked for longer periods if budget cuts are approved at the county level.

“We’re going to lose a lot here on the Island,” said Jolie Bell, president of the Friends of the Island Branch Library, a nonprofit group that sponsors programs at the Holmes Beach institution, as well as raises money for collections.

Bell encouraged people to attend a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, to “learn the facts” about the impact on the library system. The hearing will take place at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.

The county’s preliminary 2008-09 budget calls for reducing the hours of branch libraries from 63 hours a week to 40 hours a week and also reducing hours at the Central Library in Bradenton.

“The Island library already lost two mornings with the last budget cut in November 2007, and now we are likely to lose an additional entire day of service,” said Denise Johnson, a member of the Friends of the Island Branch Library Board.

Bell said that under the proposed cuts “the branch library would be closed Sunday and Monday.”

The Friends representatives said budget cuts also threaten the branch’s ability to offer programming due to reduced hours and a smaller staff.

The county proposal states that with branch libraries operating for about 40 hours per week, staff will be rotated from one branch to another and “there would be limited support for meeting rooms - responsibility to set up and break down rooms is done by users.”

The proposed budget contains a reduction in money for new materials and supplies because “state aid, which is utilized solely for the purchase of books and materials, is declining each year. It has declined over $93,000from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2008 and is expected to decrease even further.”

Also unfunded in the proposed budget are adult programs, including the library’s popular computer classes.

“Services are going to be cut,” Bell said, adding that offerings such as inter-library loans may also be cut back.

According to the preliminary county budget, library services is funded by about $14,000 in program and user fees, $148,949 in fines and forfeitures, $235,041 in intergovernmental revenue and $6.9 million in ad valorem taxes.

Johnson and Bell are encouraging Island Branch Library patrons to attend the public hearing June 18.

“We have organized to go to the public hearing as many people as we can get,” Bell said.