Resident implores library system to reconsider hours
Library director: Employees would have to work 6 days a week
Cassville resident Jan Anthony has been taking her grandchildren to the library on Saturday for years.
"I want them to experience the library as I did when I was their age," she said. "[It's about] the smell of the books, the wonderment the library offers, the fun we have here and saving that in their memory jar as something fun and educational they did with their Nana."
But since the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library system closed its branches on Saturdays in August due to a failed ballot initiative, which failed to supplement extreme cuts to funding and thus, operations, Anthony and countless other parents and grandparents can no longer give them that experience.
"Every weekend, I was bringing my 3- and 5-year-old grandchildren, and now when they are at my house on Saturday, they ask if we can go to the library, I have to tell them no," she said.
Anthony attended a library board meeting on Oct. 25 and shared a speech she had written imploring board members to reconsider the restricted hours.
"I am asking you to reconsider your change and pick a day during the week you could close, and then be open on Saturday one-half a day," she said. "People are very, very unhappy about these hour changes, not just in Cassville, but Shell Knob, Monett, etc. We [also] have visitors from out of town on the weekends, who need or want to use a computer, make copies, etc. and usually go to a library, but when they go to our libraries, they are closed. By changing the hours as you have, this has cut out all working people and working grandparents, who want to come to the library and want to bring their children and/or grandchildren."
Anthony then questioned what message the library was sending adults and children in the community from the closure.
Gina Milburn, director for the Barry-Lawrence County Library system, said she and Anthony have had extensive conversations about the closure and that she sympathized with the community, but the situation is complicated and can't be revisited until after the first of the year, when they can see where they're at with taxes.
"The problem is, we have full-time staff that have to work a 40-hour week," she said. "So, if you close a half day during the week, and open a half-day on Saturday, then the full-time staff will have to work six days to get their hours in.
"It's hard enough to get staff to work for what we're able to pay without working with schedules that are unattractive, and then you have to decide which half-day you're going to close. It's a no-win situation."
Milburn said library statistics have shown that, since the Saturday closures district-wide, the average daily circulation for August and September compared to the same months last year, is actually higher.
It's possible that could be because those who are not employed or have flexible schedules and are able to go to the library during the week are going more, in response to the closures.
"That could be, but we're still looking at the number of days we're open," Milburn said.
The only other option would be to shorten employee hours, which wouldn't be fair, she said.
"It's not been easy, and I totally understand people being unhappy," Milburn said. "But, you can only take a dollar and stretch it so far, and this seemed to be the best solution."
The library system is receptive to reopening Saturdays, but it all depends on their tax situation.
"We have to see what our tax money is going to be before we make a decision," Milburn said. "Our current taxes start to roll in around the middle of December, then a second one in January. We get them throughout the year, but a lot of that's delinquent. We can know at that point how we're going to be able to function."
Another concern Anthony shared with the board in her speech was the hours potentially having a negative effect on the library's ballot initiative, which it is planning to present to the public again next year.
"I don't think any of us want that to happen," she said to the board.
"The board has not voted yet on the ballot," Milburn said. "We don't know if we'll go out in April or August. [Regardless], we still won't collect taxes until next fall."
The library's next board meeting will take place on Nov. 17 at the Pierce City branch. Meetings are open to the public. For more information, people may contact the library's main offices at 417-235-6646.