November 8, 2012 | Volume 42, Number 45

Public library cuts evening hours

Beginning Monday, the Haines Borough Public Library will close at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Reduced hours will continue until March 1.

The winter hours reduction was started last December, shortening evening hours that had been in place for decades.

Library board secretary James Alborough said the closure addresses low usage during winter. On some nights, volunteers don’t see a single patron, he said. “During the winter, the volunteers have no one coming through the doors, especially when the weather is bad.”

Library director Patricia Brown said an electronic sensor installed on the library doors typically counts one or two patrons during those hours, and occasionally none at all.

Volunteer librarians also report very little patronage, said board member Heather Lende.

“We would love to stay open and we have volunteers that would love to stay open, but you know, you hate to burn out your volunteers. Volunteers come because they want to do something. And they’re just sitting there and the library’s empty,” Lende said.

Lende said low evening use could be due to the library’s online systems, which allow remote book renewal and catalog perusal. She also said the library has a service that delivers books to shut-ins.

Brown said there is no reason to keep the computers and lights on when no one is using the library. Brown and several board members said there would also be energy savings due to the early closures, but said that’s not the reason for their decision.

  Lende said the library board had “big debates” on the winter hours issue before it decided to implement the policy last year.

Judi Broste has volunteered at the library intermittently for about four years and said she imagines the new winter hours will affect how some people use the library, particularly residents who live far away from town.

“I’m retired; I can be here whenever. When they tell me all the restaurants are closed at a certain time, I just go when they’re open. But some people can’t. And I have to realize that there are a lot of people in this town that work for a living and they live up the highway. So it would be difficult (for them),” Broste said.

At about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were only two patrons in the library. Darren Pattison said the change would be an inconvenience for him. He works five days a week at a local store and uses the library at night a few times a week to check out books or movies or use the Internet. “I guess I’d find other times (to come) but I sure hope they don’t make the hours even less.”

  Patron Simon Ford said his home-schooled family “loves the library” but called the reduction reasonable. “There’s not an abundance of people coming this late. It’s a good meeting place for the community and a place for kids to do things, but it makes sense to consolidate.”

Lende said the library received no complaints last year about the change. If there’s demand to keep the later hours, the board will consider that. “If it looks like there’s a high demand, we’ll open. We serve everybody in town, we’re happy to,” she said.

The library will stay open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays to accommodate meetings and events. Beginning Monday, the library will be open Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.