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Austin Public Library cuts hours, delays projects

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

The Austin Public Library will reduce its hours and won’t be filling a vacant librarian’s position this year in an effort to trim expenses from the city’s 2009 budget.

At their monthly meeting Tuesday, library board members approved reducing the library’s hours by four hours a week. The library’s current hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The library is closed Sundays during summer. Beginning May 1, the library will open an hour later, at 10 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the library will close an hour later, at 6 p.m.

Under the change, the library will be open for 64 hours a week instead of 68 hours, which is still comparable to other area libraries.

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"That still puts us at a healthy number of hours," said library director Ann Hokanson.

The library’s conference rooms will still be available for rent beginning at 9 a.m., said Hokanson.

Board members also have proposed to delay filling the children’s librarian position, which will become vacant in April, when Maureen Steenblock retiresafter 29 years as a librarian.

Hokanson said the library will depend on volunteers to help coordinate the children’s programs, especially in summer, when programs are "the most labor-intensive."

According to board treasurer Duane Feragen, the board aimed to reduce expenses by about 10 percent.

"That puts us in the best position," said Feragen. "We are trying to be proactive. It’s easier to go back up than (to cut more later)."

The board also voted to scrap plans to offer a two-day literacy training program for local, home-based child care providers.

Hokanson announced in November that she would be applying for a grant to cover the cost of the program, which teaches child care providers new ways to connect children to stories and books through interactive reading and learning.

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Hokanson recommended delaying the application process until the library has full staff to help coordinate the program.

Capital improvement projects also will be delayed until further notice, said Hokanson.

City council members will review the library’s budget during a work session on March 16.

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Austin Public Library: http://www.austinpubliclibrary.org/

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