Since mid-May, Neill Public Library has been taking a hard look at the impact that budget reductions and low staffing levels would have on the library’s operations. Recently, our operating budget was cut by $40,600. We are advertising for a full-time administrative assistant, but the position is not filled yet and four other staff positions remain vacant. We have temporarily suspended children’s storytimes through October so our Youth Services Librarian can be cross-trained to cover some of the duties from vacant positions. Other employees have been pulled out of their departments to provide necessary cross- coverage as well. It is not a sustainable solution. We must now take a hard look at the library’s open hours.
My recommendation to the Board is to reduce four operating hours per week and, in response to public input received thus far, reallocate the remaining 41 operating hours to offer better accessibility for our patrons. What are those better times of access? That’s the question we now pose to you. Thanks to a community volunteer and the library’s management team, a library survey has been created to solicit your input. The survey will run from 9/14 – 9/30. The survey can be completed online at www.neill-lib.org. Hardcopies will also be available at the library.
Here are some of the important questions covered by this survey:
1. Thinking about your personal schedule and commitments, what is the best time for you to visit the library?
2. If the library could be open only 1 weekend day, choose the day you would prefer.
3. What would be the best time for you to attend children’s programs?
4. What would be the best time for you to attend adult programs?
Reducing hours is a difficult option to consider. No decision will be universally embraced because everyone has a different idea of what those hours should be. But it takes money and staff to keep a library open, and unfortunately for Neill Library, we don’t have enough of either to maintain status quo.
After four years of unrelenting staffing shortages and financial challenges, our library services have been cut so deeply that Neill Library is but a shell of what I feel a public library should be. Just having the doors open does not provide the kind of library our community has come to expect and deserve. While it’s true the cuts we’ve made to services over the years have staved off deeper cuts to operating hours, we have now sunk below what we consider to be our core level of services. That is why I am recommending a four hour cut to the library’s open hours.
Please take a few minutes to complete the library’s survey about its open hours. We will analyze the results and continue to evaluate traditional measures of library usage (circulation, patron count, and public internet sessions, for example) to determine the best course of action.
We appreciate your time and value your input.
Library Director, Neill Public Library
9/15-16 Moscow Pullman Daily News