Cuts to library hours advance


POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.

A state Board of Education committee pushed forward a proposal yesterday to authorize closing 51 public libraries two days a month to meet an anticipated shortfall of $3.58 million.

Several Budget Committee members said that with negotiations between the state and unions occurring, the decision could change, but they wanted to move forward to give some direction to state Librarian Richard Burns.

The proposal now goes to the full school board.

Burns said under a revised plan to meet the shortfall, state public libraries would be tentatively closed for two days on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

The proposal would also authorize up to for four days of library closures for flexibility in planning in the event the shortfall increases.

While the agenda noted that public libraries such as Lahaina, Holualoa and Kealakekua on the Big Island could be closed immediately due to inadequate staffing, Burns said the situation was dire.

As a standard, the library system requires two permanent staff and a half-time janitor at each library, and the three libraries do not meet the requirements, he said.

For example, the Lahaina Public Library has a permanent employee, a temporary employee and a janitor, and the state administration plans to eliminate temporary hires.

Burns, interviewed later, said he will try to find resources to maintain a temporary hire at the public library in Lahaina.

“;It's a very difficult situation,”; he said. “;Our staff has been stretched very thin for a very long time.”;

Burns said the Holualoa Public Library has been closed temporarily.

State Rep. Angus McKelvey testified against the closure of the Lahaina Public Library, saying the next nearest library was 30 miles away and the facility serves many working-class people.

“;This is their educational lifeline,”; McKelvey said. “;I've been fielding more calls on this than the Superferry.”;

Some board members criticized a list of 28 libraries that will need to reduce hours or close intermittently when temporary hires are eliminated.

Board member Maggie Cox of Kauai said most of the affected libraries are in rural areas, while libraries in urban areas where libraries are located closer together are the least impacted.

“;That's what bothers me,”; she said.





        » Keith T. Fujio is the state public library system's administrative services officer.