They were lined up 10 deep in Towson yesterday, but not to buy tickets to an Oriole game or a rock concert.
Patrons were patiently waiting to check out armloads of books at Baltimore County's Towson branch library, which has seen a 250 percent increase in Sunday circulation as a result of cuts in service elsewhere.
"There always were a lot of students, but it's more crowded now," said Peggy Davis, standing amid a swirl of bibliophiles after helping her 8-year-old grandson pick out two books and two videos.
In September, the county's Board of Library Trustees reduced the number of branches with Sunday hours from 15 to three -- leaving only Towson, North Point and Randallstown open to slake residents' thirst for knowledge.
Patrons check 5,000 books out of the Towson branch -- the county's largest -- every Sunday, said Charles W. Robinson, director of the county library system. Sunday circulation is up 200 percent at Randallstown to 4,000 books, and 150 percent at North Point to 2,000 books, he added.
"We do more business per hour on Sunday than we do per hour during the rest of the week," said Cornelia Ives, the Towson branch manager.
Ms. Ives supervises a Sunday crew of eight librarians and 15 clerks. Towson opens at noon and closes at 6 p.m. Sundays.
To cut expenses, the county library system has not only reduced Sunday service. It has reduced its staff from about 480 to 440, cut book purchases and ordered employees to take 10 unpaid "furlough" days -- seven work days and three holidays.
But patrons, Mr. Robinson said, appear to be shifting their borrowing and browsing habits around the cutbacks. Circulation for January, he said, was up 2 percent over the same month last year.
Plans now call for the Towson, Catonsville and Rosedale branches to open Sundays through most of the fall, winter and spring of next year, Mr. Robinson said.
But, he cautioned, the county's fiscal situation may not permit continued Sunday service anywhere.
He predicted that the county library system's $20.5 million budget will be reduced by at least 2 percent and may be cut by 10 percent.