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Closure proposal affects 3 libraries on Maui, Big Isle


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maui businesswoman Joan McKelvey is upset about a proposal to close the Lahaina Public Library, because the next nearest library is more than 20 miles away in Wailuku.

“;That's outrageous,”; said McKelvey, president of the LahainaTown Action Committee, a group representing scores of businesses in West Maui. “;That library is very well attended from what I can see. There's hardly a time I go by that you don't see people walking in and out of the library.”;

Besides Lahaina, Big Island libraries at Kealakekua and Holualoa would also be closed due to a lack of required staffing, under a proposal to be considered by the state Board of Education tomorrow.

The meeting starts at 3 p.m. in the board's conference room in the Queen Liliuokalani Building in Honolulu.

Facing a shortfall of $3.58 million in the budget year beginning July 1, state Librarian Richard P. Burns has also proposed that the state's 51 public libraries be closed two Wednesdays a month.

He also wants to reduce hours or close intermittently 28 libraries statewide when temporary hires are let go because of a lack of funding.

Even if accepted by the board, the proposals would be subject to negotiations with labor unions, including the United Public Workers and Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Burns said without temporary hires, the libraries at Holualoa, Kealakekua and Lahaina would lack minimum staffing levels required to remain open.

School board member Herbert Watanabe said he has not seen Burns' report, but knows there will be opposition to closing libraries at Holualoa and Kealakekua.

“;For the community, I don't think it's a good idea,”; he said.

Watanabe said the nearest library is in Kailua-Kona, 10 to 13 miles away.

In his proposal to the board, Burns said the shortfall is the result of numerous factors, including the governor's hiring freeze that became effective about 12 months ago, no funding for temporary hires and increased retirements.

“;Without funding for temporary hires in the Hawaii State Public Library System, 31 of 51 public libraries ... may be impacted,”; Burns said.

The 31 include nine on the Big Island, five on Kauai, five on Maui and nine on Oahu.

Library officials have asked for authorization to impose up to four furlough days a month, in the event the budget shortfall becomes greater.

“;With extremely limited and dwindling resources to fund temporary staffing, it will be impossible for the Hawaii State Library System to continue operations at all 51 libraries without negatively affecting our library patrons and public services,”; Burns said.

Burns made a proposal in early July to close the Ewa Beach Public and School Library on Oahu; Hana Public and School Library on Maui; and Big Island libraries at Holualoa, Kealakekua and Pahala.

But members asked him to come up with a different plan that would spread the fiscal burden, and some members objected to closing libraries used by schools, such as facilities at Ewa and Pahala.