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By the Book: Spotlight on Library Cutbacks

Changes to hours, fees and other services spelled out.

Since the  trimmed its hours and services this month in response to city budget tightening, some patrons are confused about what the changes mean for them. 

Alameda Patch asked Library Director Jane Chisaki to explain how the new policies impact library users. 

Is it true patrons will be charged $5 every time they request a book from another library? Requests for books within Alameda remain free for the first 52 requests — after that there's a 50-cent fee. This has been the case for years. If the request is for an item that has to be requested from a library outside of Alameda then there will be a $5 charge.

Can you give an example of how that might work? Here’s the process: A person comes to the library looking for a book but finds out Alameda does not own it. The patron fills out a request card at the reference desk and turns it in to the librarian. The card is forwarded on to the book selector for that particular subject area who decides if we will purchase the book (in which case there would be no charge to the patron). 

If the book selector decides not to purchase the book, they will call the customer. If the patron still wants the book, then the request would go on to the Interlibrary Loan Department in which case there would be a $5 charge for the request, whether or not the book is located. There will always be a phone call, or other contact with the customer, before the charge is implemented. 

How often does the library make Interlibrary Loan requests for its customers? In the last fiscal year almost 41,000 items were requested by customers. Over 36,500 of those requests were filled in-house and only 735 were Interlibrary Loan requests.

Have library meeting room rental rates gone up in price? Yes, some meeting room fees have increased. Small group study rooms on the second floor of the Main Library remain free and are offered on a first come/first served basis. Sign-ups for these rooms are taken at the Reference Desk.

The cost to rent the first floor Family Study Room fee has not increased — it is $20 per hour for Alameda residents and Alameda nonprofits. The Regina K. Stafford Community Meeting Room now has a variable fee. For Alameda residents and nonprofits, the fee for renting the Community Meeting Room is $50 per hour for half the room and $75 per hour for the whole room. Rates are higher for non-residents and commercial groups. 

What about reduced hours? How do I know when each library is open now? You can go to the library’s website and find the hours for each library location. The website has the most current and accurate information. One side note: Dewey’s Café in the Main Library will remain open on Monday mornings before the library opens because there is a Community Sing-along for toddlers in the Stafford Meeting Room. However, the Café does not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until 1 p.m. Visit the website for Dewey's hours.

In September, when City Hall starts closing on Fridays, will that change library hours as well? Come September, the Main Library will remain open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The two neighborhood libraries (Bay Farm and West End branches) will remain closed on Fridays, just as they are now. 

What other kinds of cutbacks has the library had to make? The library has scaled down the number of programs being offered, has reduced the number of magazine subscriptions, and has cut back on purchasing new and replacement materials for the library collection. 

Do you see any hope of restoring some of these programs or rolling back fees in the near term? The economic forecast is not looking to improve anytime soon and we expect more reductions in services and hours in the future. 

What reactions have you heard from the community? We haven’t had too many comments regarding the change in hours other than people are sad that there was a reduction. They seem to understand that it’s a sign of the times, but they are glad the library system is still open seven days a week, even with reduced hours.

Dave July 25, 2011 at 01:39 PM
The library could save more money by dropping subscriptions to magazines and newspapers that no one reads. There are a lot of obscure subject matter periodicals that go unused.
alameda vigilante July 25, 2011 at 07:07 PM
In Patch's 'Earnings of Alameda Employees' , executive director Jane Chiasaki is on the front page, between a police officer & a fire captain. She makes over $210,000 per year ,w/a $3000 car allowance. If she had taken even a small cut in pay, library services could have been saved!
Nancy July 25, 2011 at 09:55 PM
I totally agree with Vigilante - our library is a very busy place and a wonderful community resource. It is a real shame that our city's leaders have chosen to cut hours rather than taking a closer look at other ways for the library to save money - the nost glaring of which is the head librarian's excessive salary.

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