Tight budget forces libraries to trim hoursWritten by Julia Merchant
In the latest tangible consequence of countywide budget cuts, the Haywood County Library system is scaling back hours at each of its branches starting April 6.
Both Waynesville and Canton libraries have reduced their evening and weekend hours, with the Waynesville library closing altogether on Sundays and Canton open only half a day on Saturday.
The cuts will remain in effect until at least June 30. Programming won’t be impacted, but other things will, like the availability of meeting rooms and for some, convenience.
Patrons at the Waynesville library expressed mixed feelings about the cuts. Maggie Barton, a basic skills instructor at Haywood Community College, looked disappointed as she examined the sheet taped to the entrance informing library users of the new hours.
“It’s an inconvenience,” Barton said. “I live in Canton, work in Waynesville, and teach in the evening, so I would have to schedule my time to be able to come here.”
Another patron, Becky Prevost, was inside the library thumbing through a stack of magazines. The cuts wouldn’t impact her much, she said — Prevost figured that if people want to use the library, they’ll find a way to make the hours fit their schedule.
“This library is one of the best in the state, and if you want to come bad enough, you’ll come when it’s open,” Prevost said.
One man leaving the library Monday who identified himself as homeless lamented the loss of the library’s Sunday hours. Because not many other places are open on Sunday, he passes time at the library using the computers, reading papers and catching up on current events.
Another day, another budget cut
The reduced hours are a direct result of the county’s mandate that all departments cut 7 percent from their budgets for the last three months of the fiscal year. The library system had to trim $105,000 from its budget. That meant cutting staff positions — which left it without enough staff to work during library hours. The system has lost six part-time positions since December, about half the total number of part time staff, according to Library Director Robert Busko.
Busko said that while part-timers may only work a few hours at a time, they’re valuable assets to the staff. They can be called in as an extra hand when the library gets busy, or sub for someone who’s sick or on vacation.
The cuts in staff and hours come at a time when the library system, like others nationwide, is seeing an increase in usage. Unlike systems around the country, Haywood’s increase has only occurred recently. A few months ago, library use was actually down. That’s because budget cuts forced the library to stop ordering new material.
“We didn’t buy new books, so we didn’t have what people wanted to read,” said Busko.
The library is now buying new books, but only bestsellers.
Busko tries to maintain an optimistic outlook, but said the cutbacks in materials, staff and hours have been a blow. Eyes cast downward, he shakes his head.
“It’s been tough. Tough,” he says.
Library hours cut
The Waynesville library will close at 6 p.m. most days of the week, as opposed to 9 p.m. While Saturday hours remain unchanged, the Waynesville library will be closed altogether on Sunday.
The Canton branch is cutting 11 hours from its schedule. It will remain open on Sundays, but will move to a half-day on Saturday and trim its weekday hours. The Maggie Valley and Fines Creek branches are both halving their Wednesday hours.
For a list of the new library hours, visit www.haywoodlibrary.org.