Some residents are alarmed at proposed cutbacks in Petaluma Library hours, and one woman feels that it reflects a lack of concern for people with limited funds.
"Public libraries are a wonderful resource for us people who have very limited funds and cannot buy books, download them to a non-existent Kindle, etc. Can something (else) be cut that doesn't continue the class warfare?" wrote Cynthia Eggers on the Petaluma360 Facebook page.
The Sonoma County Library Commission has come up with a plan to reduce hours as part of an attempt to close a $1.05 million funding gap. Every branch library in the county would be open the same hours each week: closed on Sunday and Monday; open noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; and open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Central Library in Santa Rosa would be open these same hours, as well as 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday
The Petaluma Library, at 100 Fairgrounds Drive, currently is closed on Sunday; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Doug Cisney, manager of the Petaluma Library, says that the proposal to close on two consecutive days, rather than separated days, helps employees.
"If any other day is chosen to close, staff members don't get two days off in a row. If we are closed on Saturday, we miss a whole demographic group —?and it's one of the busiest days of the week," he said.
Some programs at the Petaluma Library would be affected by the new schedule, Cisney said.
"Adult programs already have been cut back, and we might need to cut them back further. Our three children's programs might need to be combined into two," he said.
The proposed hours change would result in libraries being open one less day and two fewer mornings, and on Thursday, rather than Wednesday, night. So, library hours would be cut back from 52 to 40 per week.
These proposed changes need to be discussed with the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly all library workers, before any implementation can occur.
"The next steps will depend on what alternatives the union wishes to offer as viable ways to close the $1.05 million gap," wrote Sandy Cooper, Sonoma County Library director, in an e-mail to the Argus-Courier. "With the reduction in service hours and other savings, we hope to reduce that operating deficit by half for next year — but there are still other reductions that must be made.
"The commission is committed to working through all these issues with the union's bargaining team."
The library commission is also proposing to lay off all 26 substitutes by July 1.
"This would result in $612,000 in savings, but if all of them claim unemployment, it would cost us around $200,000 next year," Cooper said. "Altogether, would save an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 next year, and close to $400,000 in subsequent years.
"We're trying to avoid laying off permanent employees. Some of our part-time employees might be able to pick up hours by substituting."
By keeping hours uniform at all the branch libraries, it would be easier to find replacements, since employees would be working the same hours, Cooper said.