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The Petaluma Library is the latest victim of deficits and cutbacks in local government, and beginning Sunday, the library will close its doors each Sunday and Monday, as well as reduce its weekday hours.

The reduced schedule, which affects all branches of the Sonoma County Library system, was approved by the county library commission last month. It cuts hours from 52 to 40 per week.

The decision was based simply on economics, according to Doug Cisney, Petaluma Library branch manager. "There just isn't the tax revenue there once was," he said.

"With everybody else closing, the budget cuts weren't a surprise to me. It's really unfortunate, and a lot of other libraries are in the same situation," said Cisney.

The library has had a budget deficit for the last couple of years and these cuts are intended to close a $1.05 million funding gap. Despite the budget cuts, the staff will remain virtually the same.

"Nobody is getting laid off because of the cuts," said Cisney. "We won't have as many substitutes being used, which will save money. Substitutes are mainly used when we are understaffed or people are on vacation, so for the most part, our staff won't change."

Under the new schedule, evening hours will be limited to Wednesdays, when the library will be open to 8 p.m. The library will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

"Personally, I feel saddened by the budget cuts our library system faces. The library has always been such a comprehensive resource for our community," said Sierra Downey, a youth representative of the Petaluma Library Advisory Board. "However, in light of our ongoing economic turmoil, I understand the necessity of such frugality. We simply have to make do until we're in a better economic climate."

One of the main issues with the cuts lies in the ease of access for the public.

"By being closed on Mondays as well as closing earlier during the week, we are making it more difficult for people to get here, especially commuters who work in the city," said Cisney. "It's going to be tough for someone who is coming to the library on a Monday to get here and realize that the door is locked.

"Nobody wants to cut hours. It's hard, because it is happening at a time when schools are undergoing budget cuts, so school libraries are cutting hours, as well."

This reduction in hours will also affect a more specific demographic.

"The cuts to hours are, I believe, the cuts that most affect Petaluma youth. Young people who find the library their sanctuary for reading, researching, doing homework and tutoring will have fewer hours in the library each day and won't be able to use the library on Mondays."

However, while the reduction in hours will take a toll on the public, the library inventory will remain at its current status.

"As far as the books are concerned, the material budget has not changed at this point," said Cisney. In addition, we will continue to have children's programs, library tours and school visits."

The library remains a haven for the public, offering a variety of programs and opportunities for city residents.

"One thing that I love about our library is that it is open for everybody. That's what is nice about public libraries. We have a lot of free programs, public computers and anyone can get a free library card," said Cisney, "Our public computers are used all the time. Because of unemployment, people are filling out job applications. It's really a great resource."

The staff hopes that the library will not suffer as a result of the cuts.

"It is important that people realize that nobody wanted to do this. It's purely because of the money," said Cisney, "I really hope people understand. It would be very helpful if people could return books between Tuesday and Saturday when we are open, so that not as many books will pile up while we're closed. Even if just some people could do that, it would be a big help for us."

(Contact Brittany Burnett and Shawna Brown at argus@arguscourier.com)