Some Fresno County libraries could soon be open longer

The Fresno BeeMarch 30, 2014 

Nearly half of Fresno County Library branches will add hours under a plan being considered Tuesday by county supervisors.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

More hours are coming to a Fresno County Library branch near you.

If Fresno County supervisors adopt a plan Tuesday that uses Measure B sales-tax funding, library services will expand by 11,778 hours in the 2014-15 fiscal year. New hours would be effective April 14.

Nearly half of the county's library branches — 15 — will add four hours per week to their schedule. No libraries will lose hours.

The new plan also allows the county library system to start its new WoW! (WithOut Walls) Library outreach program that will bring the library to Fresno County residents who have serious reference questions and can't get to a county library.

Under a proposal in January, county librarian Laurel Prysiazny suggested cutting hours at some library branches because the system was undertaking more aggressive outreach and virtual library programs, which would divert librarians from brick-and-mortar branches.

The plan was to get more people to use library services even if they were not showing up at branches, by sending librarians on the road, as in the WoW! program.

Eleven libraries were slated to lose hours in the January proposal and eight would have added hours. No libraries will lose hours under the new plan.

Supervisors told Prysiazny to return with a plan that kept each library branch open at least the same number of hours or added hours. They said that taxpayers expect more services now that the economy is recovering from the recession.

Those additional services include a new way to lend books and other materials.

Next month, a 7,000- pound, high-tech kiosk that Prysiazny calls a "Redbox on steroids" will open at the entrance to Kohl's in Clovis' Sierra Vista Mall.

The machine will hold and dispense up to 400 items and be available 73 hours weekly. Customers can get access to the library's online catalog, check out items in the kiosk and place holds on other items.

The expanded library services will be covered by revenues from Measure B, a one-eighth-of-a-cent sales tax. Voters approved the measure in 1998 and reauthorized it in 2012, keeping the tax in place until 2029.

"I am certainly encouraged that we are going to maintain or expand hours," said Andreas Borgeas, Fresno County Board of Supervisors chairman. "That was the purpose of Measure B, to provide the resources necessary for this community asset, and this is a very good purpose."

The new plan is to add six full-time librarians, two full-time assistants and one part-time assistant at an additional cost of $563,945 annually, paid for with Measure B funds. The cost for the remaining three months of this fiscal year is $133,562.

"With the passage of Measure B we should be looking to maximize our library hours, especially in the outlying areas," Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said. "In some of those places the library is the only place kids and seniors can go to get on computers."

Seven libraries in Supervisor Judy Case McNairy's rural district will add hours under the new plan.

"We are restoring hours and they can still do the outreach, and I think that's an appropriate move," she said.

 

Extended hours

Libraries expected to add four hours per week:

Gillis (Dakota and Fruit avenues, Fresno); Politi (Bullard Avenue and First Street, Fresno); Cedar Clinton (Fresno)

Reedley; Sanger; Selma; Auberry; Caruthers; Fowler; Kerman; Kingsburg; Mendota; Orange Cove; San Joaquin; and West Fresno.

 

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

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