County libraries set to re-open Mondays

Stafford branch also opening Sundays during the school year

Gazette Photo by Erik SandinSigns on the door at the Washington County Library R.H. Stafford branch in Woodbury show the branch's new Sunday and Mondayhours. All county libraries resume Monday hours next week and the Stafford branch will open on Sunday during the school year as a pilot project.

Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin
Signs on the door at the Washington County Library R.H. Stafford branch in Woodbury show the branch’s new Sunday and Mondayhours. All county libraries resume Monday hours next week and the Stafford branch will open on Sunday during the school year as a pilot project.

WOODBURY — What a difference a year makes.

At this time last year, Washington County Library branches were closed Sundays and Mondays in response to the loss of more than $250,000 in levy funds.

But this week, WCL officials prepared to re-open all WCL branches on Mondays and the R.H. Stafford branch on Sundays during the school year.

“We’re getting ready. We’re getting all the signs changed,” said WCL Director Patricia Conley. “All six branches will be open Monday.”

WCL libraries were closed Sundays and Mondays in 2012 after the Lake Elmo City Council voted in late 2011 to leave the county library system, taking with it a more than $250,000 levy.

However, during budget meetings late last summer and early fall, Washington County officials said a combination of increased revenue from property records filings and savings from delayed projects provided enough money to re-open WCL branches on Mondays.

During one budget meeting, county officials indicated there was enough money for the Board of Commissioners to re-open WCL branches on Mondays starting in October.

However, Conley said officials decided to delay the Monday openings until this month so staff could be hired and trained. She said the WCL has hired the staff approved in the 2013 WCL budget.

“Some of that was new hires and some were promotions,” she said.

Conley acknowledges that the closing WCL branches Sundays and Mondays last year was unpopular among residents. One student at the Math and Science Academy in Woodbury presented a petition to the library board in late 2011 urging the group to reconsider the closings.

“When Commissioner (Lisa) Weik asked her if she (the student) wanted the library open on Sunday or Monday, she said adults wanted it open on Sunday and students wanted it open on Monday,” Conley said.

Conley adds that because the Math and Science Academy does not have its own library, the students use the Stafford branch, located across the street from the school.

The Monday closures also affected many jobless residents who relied on the libraries’ computers to apply for unemployment, filed for their weekly benefits and look for jobs, according to Conley.

Conley said another benefit of WCL branches re-opening Mondays is that WCL hours are in line with hours at the Stillwater and Bayport Public libraries, which remained open on Mondays last year. The two city facilities and WCL branches have a reciprocity agreement allowing cardholders with each system to borrow materials from each facility.

In addition to all branches re-opening on Mondays, Conley said the Stafford branch in Woodbury will re-open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays as a test this year. The flagship branch opens Sundays until Memorial Day, is closed Sundays in the summer, then re-open Sundays after Labor Day.

“It’s a pilot project. This was a County Board initiative to open on Sunday as a test,” she said.

Conley reminds residents that WCL branches would not be open every Monday.

“We’ll be open the next couple of Mondays. We’ll be closed on Monday’s that are federal holidays,” Conley said.

The next two Monday federal holidays are Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 21 and Presidents Day Feb. 18.

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