Libraries a step closer to re-opening Mondays

county board indicates support for Sunday hours at Stafford

Washington County Library branches moved a step closer to not only re-opening on Mondays, but the County Board of Commissioners indicated support for a one-year pilot program to resume Sunday hours at the county’s Woodbury flagship library.

Commissioners and county and WCL staff concluded a 30-minute workshop Tuesday with a consensus to restore Monday hours at all WCL branches and open the R.H. Stafford branch in Woodbury from 1 to 5 p.m. during the school year in 2013.

WCL Executive Director Patricia Conley presented three options to commissioners at the workshop. The first option opens the five WCL main branches from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and the Valley branch in Lakeland from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.

Conley’s second option only opened Stafford, Hardwood Creek in Forest Lake and Park Grove in Cottage Grove from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays. Her last option was keeping branches closed Sunday and Monday.

Conley said Option A that opens all branches on Mondays would cost $260,000. Option B, which opens only three branches for a half-day Mondays would cost $140,000.

“Right now, we’re looking at acceptable and affordable,” Conley said. “We want to maintain programming. We want to have similar hours of service and we want to provide the newest in service.”

Tuesday’s workshop was in response to Conley’s first presentation on restoring Monday hours at WCL branches during the library system’s August budget presentation to commissioners.

The WCL was forced to close branches on Sunday and Monday starting Jan. 2 after the Lake Elmo City Council voted to pull out of the county system and start its own city-run library, taking with it a $250,000 levy that was part of the WCL budget.

Conley stressed that eliminating Sunday and Monday hours this year did not eliminate service demands but merely shifted that demand to open hours at branches.

“Our public, wired, public-access computers are heavily used,” she said.

County administrators said money to re-open library branches on Mondays would come from a combination of cost savings and increased revenue from paperwork filings.

“We have additional revenue in mortgage and deed filings in property records,” said County Administrator Molly O’Rourke.

She added that opening Stafford for four hours on Sundays during the school year would cost an estimated $24,000.

The idea of opening Stafford on Sundays for one year was first proposed at Monday’s WCL Board meeting. Conley told the library board that past use of Stafford on Sundays “justifies having Stafford open on Sunday.”

“I would support Sunday open at Stafford on a trial basis,” said Commissioner Gary Kriesel. “This is a pilot project.”

During Tuesday’s workshop, Kriesel suggested library officials get feedback from users about Sunday hours to see if they should be continued, expanded to other branches or eliminated.

“That would make some certain sense,” said Commissioner Dennis Hegberg.

Commissioner Lisa Weik said restoring Sunday and Monday hours at Stafford would fulfill a county contract with Woodbury to provide optimum use of Stafford at Woodbury’s Central Park.

“The city of Woodbury has been very strident in their opinion,” she said. “I would support Option A with Stafford open on Sunday during the school year.”

“I would see value in going back to our old hours where all the branches were open Sunday and Monday,” Conley added.

A final decision by the County Board on re-opening WCL branches on Monday and Stafford on Sunday would come later this year when commissioners address the WCL budget. In August, however, O’Rourke said funds were available to restore Monday hours at libraries next month if commissioners wanted to do that.

It was Hegberg who summed up the feelings of commissioners as the workshop adjourned.

“I think we’ve got a consensus of Option A and opening Sunday at Woodbury,” he said.