Fresno County supervisors reconsider changes in library hours

The Fresno BeeJanuary 7, 2014 

The Fresno County main library in downtown Fresno is seen in a July 2013 file photo.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — THE FRESNO BEE

Changes in Fresno County library hours did not sit well with Fresno County supervisors, who said Tuesday they want a say when library branches hours are reduced.

New hours were scheduled to go into effect Monday but were delayed when supervisors intervened. Supervisors told County Librarian Laurel Prysiazny on Tuesday they want to approve any reductions in hours.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said she wasn't "trying to micromanage" but was concerned that voters who approved the Measure B sales tax, which allocates one-eighth-of-a-cent for county libraries, might be upset if their library's hours are cut.

Supervisors asked Prysiazny to return with an analysis of what it would cost to keep all library branches open at least the same number of hours as in recent years.

Some of the proposed changes added library service hours overall countywide, Prysiazny said.

She said hours were adjusted based on analysis from observations of library users as to when each branch was used most.

But reducing hours will "punish kids" who go to libraries as a safe place after school, said Fowler resident Daniel Parra.

"After 3 p.m. you can't get a computer (in the library)," he said. "There are a lot of kids in there and a lot of them are latchkey kids."

Supervisors agreed with Parra and expressed concern about 13 branches where hours were supposed to be cut, including Clovis, Figarden, Fowler and other rural communities.

But Prysiazny said some hours were cut because the library is bolstering its virtual services and starting a new project using traveling librarians to help clients across the county with such things as business plans and research needs.

To pay for the new project, known as the WoW! Mobile Library, librarians will be shuffled from their desk jobs to go on the road.

She said 35% of Fresno County's population use the library, but 100% of taxpayers foot the bill. She thinks new programs will attract new library users.

Before proposing the change in hours, Prysiazny said she consulted with the county library's Citizens Review Panel, county administration and County Counsel to ensure that decisions about library hours had to be addressed by supervisors.

She said she was assured she could make the changes.

But supervisors said they want a more active role.

"I think Clovis should have a second library and you cut 10 hours per week," Poochigian said, noting that cutting hours is not a way to justify adding new branches or expanding existing ones.

There was "some real heartburn about hours being decreased," said board Chairman Andreas Borgeas.

Taxpayers have an expectation of more services now that the county is starting to come out of the recession, he said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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