Shortfall forces library cutbacks

Local branch service will be curtailed by 44 hours per week.

Kitsap Regional Library branches including Bainbridge Island will cut hours starting in January, following the failure of a tax levy lid lift earlier this year.

“We want to be careful with these cuts,” said KRL Executive Director Jill Jean of Bainbridge Island. “But we need to balance our budget while meeting the needs of our most important customers.”

Belt tightening comes in two areas: operating hours and fine collection.

Under the new hours, all library branches will open at 1 p.m. on Thursdays, and Saturday hours will be from 1-5 p.m. The cuts represent a service reduction of 44 hours per week.

Jean said the hours of operation are determined by studying the heaviest and lightest time of library use. Friday night, for example, only attracts a small crowd, and more inexplicably, Thursday mornings are very slow.

Under the new fee policy, the “grace period” for returns will be discontinued.

Under the new structure all materials checked out must be returned by the due date or the patron will be charged a 25-cent fine for each overdue item.

Patrons with outstanding fees will not be allowed to borrow additional library materials while they have outstanding fines. There is a cap of $5 per item in overdue fees.

The library isn’t trying to raise funds with late fees, KRL spokeswoman Susan Rosapepe said, rather the tight budget has made it difficult to purchase new materials.

“We need to get what we do have back into circulation,” she said.

KRL is already taking steps to help patrons avoid late fees.

When materials are checked out, the patron receives a receipt with the names of the items and the date they are due.

If a borrower loses track of the receipt, they can go to the KRL website, enter their library card number, and access their account.

Beginning in December, patrons will receive email notices the week their materials are due.

KRL is encouraging patrons to take advantage of this service by furnishing their email address to Kitsap Regional Library so that they can be contacted with date due information.

Jean said KRL has already managed to cut $2 million so far and will operate with a $10 million budget in 2008. Another $2.1 million will need to be cut for 2009.

The Internet has become a way to provide information at a lower cost. To this end, KRL is now testing a retooled web site.

“It will be streamlined and easier to use,” Jean said of the site. “Information will be fresher and easier to access.

“It will be a full redesign, which hasn’t been done since the site opened.”

Jean said the new site will contain public comment section, and the ability to blog.

The changes were approved at a KRL Board meeting on Thursday and will take effect Jan. 1.

Bainbridge assistant branch manager Sharon Lee said her library is doing its best to work within the tight budget.

Librarians recently added science fiction and fantasy genre shelves by pulling unused bookcases from other offices.

“That’s something we did without spending any money,” she said. “It may seem like a small thing, but it matters a lot to the people who care about it.”

Staff writer Tad Sooter

contributed to this report.

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