Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, June 12, 1996

State libraries
should be open longer

WHERE is it written that a successful library is one that you can walk into, use and then leave at your convenience? Obviously not in Hawaii, where the chances are good that the library in your neighborhood is closed (1) for structural modifications less massive than the pyramids but taking almost as long to complete, or (2) because the staff is being trained.

If saving money by slamming doors in the faces of Hawaii's young readers is the way to go, then the state libraries should be listed on the NASDAQ with other hot properties.

Here's a quick sample of library closings in the last year: Library of the Blind, three weeks; Waimanalo, two months; Kalihi, six months; Manoa, five months; Hawaii Kai, 2-1/2 months; McCully, two months.

Add to that the Kailua library's children's collection, which was just reopened after it was closed in the middle of May.

Kauai's Hanapepe library was shut in the middle of May. Garden Island readers must make do with a two-hour visit by the Kauai bookmobile every Wednesday instead.

Waimanalo's library also just closed and is expected to remain so for two months. Happily, a mini-summer library has been set up at Waimanalo Elementary School.

The hi-tech vagaries of model library science are another reason to lock the doors. Remodeling the Hawaii Kai library necessitates two days of closed-door staff training.

All 49 libraries had to turn away the public one Friday last month so everybody could be briefed on the new automation plan.

This month the libraries are holding a veritable festival of closings as again the librarians get two days of training on a new computer system. Hawaii must be something akin to Quantico, Va., in library circles, as staffers are honed to a razor's edge.

Actually, the library staff is quite impressive. I've never met librarians who weren't courteous, dead-on akamai and cheerful. The state, however, doesn't give them much time to practice their craft.

The state's gleaming flagship, the Hawaii State Library, is open a total of 53 hours during the week, which includes being dark on Sunday. In comparison, Borders Books & Music is able to remain open 98 hours a week.

It wouldn't be fair to compare Borders and the main library because the state does offer many other services. Research and on-line reservation of books are two services that commercial operations would find hard to duplicate without hefty charges.

Still, it would not be unfair to inquire if newly reappointed librarian Bart Kane, who has had the job for 15 years, is doing enough to open doors. School board members, who gave Kane another year at his annual $85,300 post, said while they have asked about the closed libraries in the past, the matter didn't come up during the 15-minute discussion before reappointing him.

ONE school board member, Mike Compton, said Kane wins the support of the governor, Legislature and the school board. The public's inability to get at the stacks wasn't viewed as a minus by the board. If the board doesn't hear the public, however, why have an elected board?

Every hour a public library remains open is an hour of success. Therefore, every hour it is closed is an hour of failure. Someone must be responsible for both the good and bad.

Public libraries are America's gift to the philosophy of open government and democracy. Hawaii's shuttered and barred libraries mock every library card holder in the state.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics on Wednesday. Write him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send e-mail to

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