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Library sends trim plan to Schenectady County

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
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The main branch of the Schenectady County Library. (Gazette file photo)
The main branch of the Schenectady County Library. (Gazette file photo)

— Fewer staff, fewer hours and a smaller amount of materials are among the changes patrons of the Schenectady County Public Library can expect as a recently adopted restructuring plan takes hold in July.

The plan will result in a net reduction of 34.5 hours spread among eight of the library’s nine locations across the county. The only branch not immediately affected by the hour reduction — Hamilton Hill — is slated to be merged with the Duane branch to create a new family literacy center when the plan’s second phase is gradually implemented starting next year.

The library’s board of trustees unanimously adopted the plan last week as a way to reduce the 2013 budget by $250,000. Overall, the plan calls for $486,000 in savings between its two phases.

The changes in the first phase are noticeable, but not drastic. Library Director Karen Bradley said many patrons expected the cuts to be far more draconian when the budget was reduced by $521,000 from the $5.71 million the county Legislature allocated for its operation in 2012.

“Some had anticipated lots of branch closures and that isn’t happening,” she said Wednesday. “So I think they’re somewhat relieved it’s not a drastic change in the system some people feared.”

That’s not to say patrons won’t feel the difference. The Woodlawn branch in the city will be closed on Friday and operating time shaved on three other weekdays to account for a seven-hour reduction starting in July. Branches in the suburban towns of Niskayuna, Rotterdam and Glenville each will all lose about five hours during the weekdays, while the newly expanded central branch in downtown Schenectady will lose an hour each day from Monday through Thursday.

Already, patrons are contending with a $136,158 reduction in funding for library materials. The reduction introduced in January means the library won’t be able to buy as many copies of books and other materials, resulting in longer waits for popular items.

“That is really being noticed across the county,” she said. “They’re adjusting to that and it’s not something people are happy about.”

The library also will eliminate four positions through attrition, resulting in a savings of $171,000. Bradley said this part of the plan is consistent with the model the library has been operating under for the past five years.

programs protected

But despite its leaner model, Bradley said the library will continue to offer the same programs. For instance, she said, the hour changes at the Central Library won’t affect programs that operate out of its McChesney Room.

“We want to make sure the public knows that won’t impact programs,” she said.

The more ambitious changes to the system will come as the second phase is gradually introduced. Bradley said discussions are already ongoing about how the Duane and Hamilton Hill branches can be merged to better serve their respective communities, but there is no existing timetable for when the two will be combined to create a 3,000-square-foot family literacy center.

The center would ideally be located in the center of the Hamilton Hill, Vale and Central State neighborhoods and would remain open for 36 hours per week, according to the restructuring plan. Bradley said there’s no definitive timetable for creating the center and the expectation is that community discussion will help develop the concept before any changes occur.

“We’re trying to get a sense about the kind of space we need,” she said. “We want to make sure when we do it, we do it right and that it’s filling the needs of the communities there.”

The restructuring plan was forwarded to county Manager Kathleen Rooney Monday. County spokesman Joe McQueen said she will work with the library board and its staff to implement it.

“The pieces are there and we will just continue to work with them,” he said.

The hope is that the restructuring will help the library prevent future cuts, Bradley said. With the system outlined in the plan, she said there’s really nothing left to cut without creating a serious disturbance.

“We’re taking our system down to a very lean model,” she said. “If there are future budget cuts it would have a very significant impact on how we operate here.”

 
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