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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 3:44 am | Fair 51º


Budget Cuts Force Local Libraries to Reduce Hours

The Central and Eastside branches will close on Mondays, and room rental fees are going up

Even on a warm summer afternoon, the Santa Barbara Central Library is filled with children flipping through colorful books, older adults lounging with newspapers and college students scribbling notes. But with the city’s recent budget cuts, library patrons are sure to feel the cut in hours.

Beginning July 12, the Santa Barbara Central Library and the Eastside Branch Library, including meeting rooms and the Faulkner Gallery, will be closed on Mondays. The closure will be in addition to the unpaid employee furlough closures. Fees for renting the meeting rooms and galleries also will increase.

Although the city restored $50,000 to the budget, library staff chose to use the money to keep the book, periodical, downloadable book, CD and DVD collections current.

“Closing one day a week is a big change, but I preferred to keep a book budget so people can find what they are looking for,” Library Director Irene Macias said. “I’ve received so much feedback over the lack of materials.”

More than 600,000 items are checked out each year at the Central Library alone.

“We all thought long and hard about the decision to close on Mondays,” said Sarah Rosenbloom, manager of library services at the Central Library. “But we decided that we could offer better services in the six days we would be open.”

“We’ve lost four full-time positions over the last year or so,” Macias said. “It’s difficult to meet people’s needs with a smaller staff. Now that our staff is spread over fewer days, we can serve more people. For the most part, people will adjust. The library may become a little busier. Those that use this as a quiet place away will definitely feel the impact.”

Many community residents rely on the quiet atmosphere of the library.

Christian Newhan, 21, said he comes to the downtown library at least four times a week to study for his summer math class at SBCC.

“I can’t study at my house,” he said. “Environment has such a profound effect on studying. In the library, I can get away from distractions.”

Andrea Welch lives downtown and said she goes to the library to study for her graduate school entrance exam.

“It’s quiet here, so I can focus,” she said. “It’s a very important place. Some people won’t realize that until it’s gone.”

Macias agreed the library plays an important role in the community.

“The library is an institution for lifelong learning,” she said. “We get kids on the right track through our summer reading program. We help maintain reading skills over the summer while kids are out of school.”

Volunteers of all ages have been filling in gaps created by budget cuts. More than 30 high school students work in the children’s department as “volunteens” for the summer reading program, which serves more than 700 kids at the Central Library. With prizes donated by the community, the “Make a Splash” program motivates kids and teens to keep reading even when school is out for the summer. The library also hosts storytelling shows and performances for families.

“Honestly, I haven’t really been to the library for years, but I’m here now for my girls,” said Joaquin Rivas, a father of two little girls. “My 7-year-old is interested in the Twilight books. I made a deal — if she reads the entire first book, then I will go out and buy the rest. She also wants to learn how to sew, so we picked up a sewing book. Now that it’s summer, I’m going to come here more often.”

Other branches would have cut their Monday hours, but were rescued through fundraising and donations. The Goleta Library will remain open from noon to 6 p.m. on Mondays thanks to funding from the Friends of the Goleta Valley Library. The Montecito Library will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays with funding from the Friends of the Montecito Library.

Click here for a complete schedule of library hours.

“Libraries all over the country are being impacted — hours slashed, branches closed,” Macias said. “It’s a difficult time for all city employees. We are stretched very thin.”

Noozhawk intern Andrea Ellickson, a UCSB graduate, is a journalism student at SBCC. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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