CLEARWATER - Clearwater's Library System was hit hard by the City Council's 2007/08 fiscal year budget reductions.
$370-thousand was cut from the Library's preliminary budget, largely by reducing staff and closing the Beach branch. Of the seven positions eliminated, two came from a plan to close the East and Countryside branches two nights per week.
But Library Director Barbara Pickell wasn't happy with the reduction in library services, and came up with a plan to add Sunday hours to the Main and East branches within the constraints of a reduced budget and headcount.
How did she do it? Not by reducing employee compensation. Pickell carefully planned staff work schedules to operate the three principal library branches, Main, East and Countryside, 63 hours per week on the following schedule:
- Saturday and Sunday - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Monday and Friday - 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In addition to adding the frequently requested Sunday hours to the Main and East Branches, the proposal adds 2 hours to the existing Sunday schedule of the Countryside branch and 2 hours on Friday evenings at all three locations.
But to create the innovative schedule, all three branches would open 1 hour later on weekdays, open 1 hour later on Saturdays, and close 2 hours earlier on Mondays. The net effect would be a reduction in operating hours across all three locations from 196 to 189 hours per week, but the facilities would be open during more high-demand periods.
Library staff would be scheduled for either a Sunday-Thursday or Tuesday-Saturday workweek. The staff would also be expected to work 6 ½ hours on their assigned weekend workday, and an 8 ½ hour day on Monday or Friday, with the other workdays remaining at 7 ½ hours.
Pickell's plan was warmly accepted by Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback, who wrote, "This is the most innovative discussion we have had to date. This is exactly what I would hope for from every department. I can support each of your suggestions and will gladly back you as you move forward."
Pickell's proposal concluded with the following statement, "Nothing is free. Although we gain something, we lose something else. It requires a choice about what is most important. In fact, it requires that we believe that Sunday openings are more important than opening at some more traditional times, and that being open when our public wants us open is our highest priority."
John Wiser, a Countryside resident who has long been a proponent of Sunday library hours, welcomed Pickell's plan. "Sunday is the busiest day at the Countryside library. There are usually 50 people waiting for the doors to open at 1 p.m. I think it's a good idea," he said.
Barring any budget cuts in excess of what is already planned, Pickell said that the new library operating hours could begin in October at the start of the City's new fiscal year.