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7 things to know about Rochester Public Library's hours and the survey that supports them 

Library set to maintain weekend hours through the rest of the year following survey of cardholders.

Rochester Public Library
The results of a Rochester Public Library survey have led library staff and the Library Board to maintain the current hours throughout the year, opting against the traditional reduction in summer weekend hours.
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ROCHESTER — A recent survey and other community engagement has led the Rochester Public Library to opt to keep its current hours, rather than making the traditional summer cuts.

“We really feel there is a very strong value for having these weekend hours,” Library Director Karen Lemke said, noting that Sunday hours have been subject to cuts during previous summers.

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After reopening after a pandemic closure, the library created a schedule that reduced some weekday hours, but spread the typical 64 hours of operation throughout the week.

Late last year, the library sent surveys to all cardholders with plans to adjust hours to fill needs, but Lemke said the results suggest maintaining the current hours.

“A lot of this was pointing to the fact that the hours we have are good,” she said, of the 3,203 survey responses received. “They are working.”

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The survey was followed by working with the Diversity Council to hold focus groups that included an additional 66 residents, which Lemke said largely mirrored the survey results and pointed to a specific need for summer hours.

As a result, the current hours – 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday – are expected to remain unchanged throughout the year, with plans for follow-up Library Board discussions in December.

Here are a few things to know about the library hours and survey results:

1. The current schedule comes with added cost. 

Hourly library staff are paid time and a half for working on Sundays, which means maintaining the schedule will affect the library’s budget.

Lemke said it’s unclear what the impact will be, since not all staff are hourly and won’t receive the added pay. She said data will be collected this year to make budget and operation decisions in December.

For now, she said open positions – including her former communications position – mean the library is able to cover the added cost for Sunday hours this year, without needing added funding.

2. Nearly half of the respondents preferred weekend options. 

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The survey asked participants to pick a single preferred day of the week for using the library.

The most popular day was Saturday, with 34% choosing it, followed by Sunday with a 16% preference.

3. Early hours are preferred. 

Survey participants were also asked to choose a preferred two-hour block of service, starting at 8 a.m.

Nearly a third – 30% – chose from 10 a.m. to noon as the easiest time to access the library in a daily basis.

The 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. period came in second, preferred by 21% of the survey participants.

4. People who don’t use the library still prefer Saturdays and early hours. 

Lemke said it’s important to note the recent survey had the largest-ever non-user response.

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“We really wanted to get non-user input because everybody that is part of the community is paying for the library,” she said.

Of the non-users who filled out the survey, she said 11% reported not using the facility due to its hours not matching their schedules, but the majority mirrored other survey participants, pointing to Saturday and weekday morning hours as the most popular. They preferred Saturdays and early in the day, which matched others.

5. Tracking of October visits supports results. 

Library staff monitored visits throughout October and discovered that the heaviest use occurred in the first half-hour after the library’s doors opened on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with the big draw extending into the first 90-minutes of Saturday.

Daily averges-page-001.jpg
A chart shows the average number of daily visits for each 30-minute period of Rochester Public Library operations in October.
Rochester Public Library

Average visits per half-hour period, which ranged from nearly zero to 72, remained above 40 though 4 p.m. on Saturdays, compared to rarely topping that number during any 30-minute period after 10:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

6. Parking is a factor.

“The survey was all about hours, and we still got feedback about parking,” Lemke said.

The current hours add 30 minutes of available free weekday parking in the nearby parking ramps, when compared to pre-pandemic hours, but maintaining Sundays hours will provide a 12-hour weekly boost to access based on previous summer practices.

7. Pandemic changed bookmobile operations. 

When the library closed and the bookmobile was used to deliver more books in the community, staff opted to reduce the number of stops to extend the hours at each location.

Lemke said survey results show the change was appreciated.

“We heard loud and clear from bookmobile users that they like the longer stops,” she said, adding that the practice will continue.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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