Elkhart Public Library hour cuts discussed

Posted on Sept. 22, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Hours of operation for the Elkhart Public Library’s branches are being reduced Oct. 2, but the issue will not be settled for good as of that date.

The library’s board of directors last month approved changing the hours the libraries are open because of financial constraints related to the state’s property tax caps. On weekends, for example, the Cleveland, Dunlap, Osolo and Pierre Moran branches and the main library downtown will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and closed on Sundays. As of now, the main library is closed on Sundays but the branches are open from 1 to 5 p.m. All library locations are now open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

Bob Kronemyer, who said he is an active patron of the Elkhart Public Library system, spoke against the reductions at the library board’s September meeting Wednesday night.

“I feel that the library system here in Elkhart is a gem,” Kronemyer said. “Please don’t limit library hours.”

He asked the board to keep the hours of operation the same or even increase them. He suggested trimming staff hours instead of hours of operation as a way to save money.

Board members took no action on the issue Wednesday night, meaning that the reduced hours will go into effect as scheduled. But the matter will be considered again after the first of the year — or before then if the more limited schedule appears to be creating problems for too many patrons, said Deb Stewart, library director.

“It’s not something that’s written in stone, and we will be revisiting it,” Stewart said. One possibility would be to have the main branch open longer on Saturdays and resume Sunday hours at the outlying branches.

The library is receiving about $600,000 less this year than the state allowed it to budget for, and another change related to that shortfall will be closing the entrance to the children’s department along Second Street.

The Interurban Trolley line makes a stop near the children’s entrance, and people sometimes wait inside the lobby area next to that entrance for the bus to arrive. Stewart said she will find out whether the trolley service can change its stop to the library’s main entrance at Second and High streets because that way, those waiting for the bus could still do so inside the building during wet or cold weather.

The board also conducted a public hearing Wednesday night on the library’s 2012 budget. The budget as proposed will be $7,120,254, up about 2.9 percent from 2011’s $6,919,586. The budget figure is what the state allows the library to advertise, but “we expect it to be about a million less” in actual revenues received, Stewart noted.

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