Harris County Public Library cuts hours at 2 area branches
The Barbara Bush and Northwest Branch libraries are open fewer hours as part of budget reductions implemented by the Harris County Public Library.
The change, which went into effect Wednesday, means that the Northwest Branch, 11355 Regency Green Drive, Cypress, is closed on Fridays. It had been open from 1-6 p.m. on that day.
At the Bush Branch Library, 6817 Cypresswood Drive, Spring, the library is closing three hours earlier on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Last November, Bush was among the five branches that stopped offering Sunday service.
"We're really doing the best with what we have," said Linda Stevens, HCPL's coordinator of marketing and programming. "You will see an effect. We're trying to keep services available that we know people use. We're trying to look toward the future."
The just-approved Harris County fiscal 2012 budget allocates $22.8 million to the county library system. The county system was allocated $25.3 million last year, but spent only $24.1 million because of fewer salaries due to unfilled positions, she said.
Stevens said the hiring freeze started in September 2009. As people left, the library system has tried to make do. The library system has lost 84 positions since the freeze began.
"We just had to reduce hours as areas were affected. The Cy-Fair area was one of the last affected," she said. "We held out as long as we could."
The library system has a thriving volunteer program.
"Last year, we have volunteer hours of 77,000, almost the equivalent of 37 full-time staff," she said, but added,
"A volunteer can't do everything that a staff member can."
The decision on which hours to cut is based on library traffic, she said.
"Friday is generally one of the slower days at the library," Stevens said. "We try to take all of that into account."
Recent monthly calendars for Bush and Northwest showed few if any activities for the hours that were eliminated April 6.
"They probably didn't have activities because that was one of the less busy times," Stevens said.
Online services are still available around the clock at www.hcpl.net. Library materials can also be renewed by calling 713-747-4763.
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