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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Library restores service hours trimmed by budget constraints

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Consistent opening and closing times along with increased service hours are key features in the new schedule of operations at all Indianapolis Public Library locations.

In 2010, the library reduced service hours by 26 percent and made other budget cutbacks due to reduced property tax revenues and property tax caps.

The library now is increasing weekly service hours and providing at least six days of service at all locations. The Central Library downtown will restore its Thursday service as well as Friday and Saturday services at all branches.

“The change was directly a result of citizens forming an advocacy group called the Citizens Coalition for Sustainable Libraries,” said library spokesman Jon Barnes.

The coalition took the lead in lobbying state legislators to allow the Indianapolis Public Library to receive $149,000 in County Option Income Tax (COIT) funds. The City-County Council also allowed the library to transfer many of its debt obligations from its operating fund to its debt service fund. By doing so, the library was able to free up operating funds dedicated towards reinstituting hours and hiring more staff.

With the combination of COIT monies and City-County Council approval to transfer funds, the library was able to receive a total of $440,000 that was needed for 2012 to cover the cost of hiring employees and operating additional hours. As a result, 94 percent of the hours were restored as they were prior to the 2010 cutbacks.

The reduced operating hours had a major impact on library patrons.

Glendale Library Branch Manager Melissa Wooton said, “We were closed completely on Fridays and then we were only open two nights in the evening. It¹s been since October 2010 when the hours were reduced, but still every Friday when we¹re here doing behind the scenes stuff, people were at the gate wanting to come in and get books.”

Wooton said Glendale patrons consistently expressed frustration due to the confusion over library hours.

“They don¹t know when we¹re open. We¹re not open when they get here and they drive all around town to find somebody who is open,” Wooton said.

Now that the library hours are restored Barnes and Wooton expect patrons to fully participate in all programs and start to depend on the library as a reliable source where their educational and recreational needs will be met.

“We expect our usage statistics to increase,” Barnes said. “We fully anticipate patrons visiting the library back to the numbers they were prior to the cutback. We¹re already noticing an increase in E-Book downloading classes.”

Wooton added, “One patron last week told me that we made his life so much easier because we¹re open on Tuesday nights now.”

The library wants to improve upon and start new library services such as reading initiatives for children. Both Barnes and Wooton have similar hopes towards the additional hours having a positive impact on the education of youth and families.

“The education of young people is more important now than ever,” Barnes said. “We¹re hoping that this will enable young people to really engage with the library.”

Wooton wants to encourage young people to read during the summer months.

“One of our biggest initiatives is early childhood literacy. We need adults to model reading as good behavior so kids will do it,” she said.

With more consistent opening and closing times and increased services hours, patrons throughout Marion County can experience the library as a trustworthy community haven that will accommodate their needs.

“To have a physical place that¹s really a great community gathering place, the library serves that role in the community and having more hours can only enhance that role,” Barnes said.

Brochures with the new hours are being distributed to library patrons along with public service announcements broadcast on radio and TV with the hours of all locations.

 

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