'Read-in' to protest cut in library hours Waverly residents fight shorter day to start next week

September 26, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

It won't compare to a '60s-style protest, but a Baltimore community group plans an unusual demonstration today against shorter hours at the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Waverly branch. The Better Waverly Community AssociFridays and change hours of operation on other days.

"We don't want to come across as a mob, because we're not a mob," said Byron Merrick, co-chair of the association.

"We want to show that we in the community support the library and we'd like to keep it as accessible as possible."

Organizers of the demonstration are asking neighborhood residents to bring "children, lawn chairs and a good book" to sit for an hour outside the Waverly branch, on 33rd Street, according to a flier distributed in the area.

Mr. Merrick said he hopes such a gathering will persuade library officials to compromise on the changes.

Last September, officials reduced the number of hours at the Waverly branch from 54 to 49 per week. When the changes go into effect next week, the branch will operate only 39 hours per week, said Averil Kadis, a library spokeswoman.

Even with the changes, officials say, only five branches would have more hours than Waverly.

Ms. Kadis said the change was prompted by plans to equalize the number of hours for branches throughout the city.

She said budget constraints did not figure in the decision -- the city recently gave the library $1.2 million from the sale of Harrison's Pier 5.

Instead, she said, the changes are part of a continuing process to change the structure of the branch system.

She said Waverly once was among the handful of "super libraries," which had far more hours than most other branches.

But Director Carla D. Hayden has moved to increase hours of branches with the shortest days and to decrease hours of those with the longest days, she said.

Seventeen of the system's 28 branches are open 37 hours a week.

The Hamilton, Pennsylvania Avenue, Herring Run and Light Street branches will continue, for now, operating 54 hours a week, officials said.

Two other branches will be affected in this round of changes: The Reisterstown branch will drop from 54 to 45 hours a week while the Hollins/Payson branch will increase from 28 to 30 hours.

Mr. Merrick said his group hopes it can compromise over hours at Waverly after holding the read-in and presenting a petition of 300 signatures collected last week.

He said residents also are seeking help from their City Council representatives.

"The mayor and the rest of the city need to know that the people have a bottom-line limit for services, especially library services in the city that reads," he said.

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