Faced with a 10 percent cut in its operational budget, the Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees has recommended Sunday closings, staff and program reductions and a 20 percent decrease in new materials.
All 11 branches in the system, which has seen a 9 percent growth in circulation this year, will remain open but each will eliminate four hours from their six-day schedules. The board had considered closing the Fallston Library, until the neighboring community expressed strong opposition.
The cuts will affect popular programs for young children, teens, adults and seniors. Funds deleted from the materials budget will limit the supply of newly published fiction and nonfiction books, audiobooks, DVDs, periodicals, school support items, children's and teen literature, as well as reference materials for all patrons.
Reductions in the equipment, maintenance and cleaning budgets are also planned. The Bel Air branch's small business center, a program that operates in partnership with Harford Community College and the county, will close to help cut costs.
The proposed reductions, which would take effect Wednesday, the start of fiscal year 2010, come at a time when demand for services are at record levels, officials said. Patrons rely on the library's computers to search for jobs and to write and submit resumes online. The system's Web site received 5.5 million visits since July 1, 2008, an 86 percent increase over the previous year. More than 1.6 million people walked through the doors of the branches during fiscal year 2009, a 6.3 percent increase over last year. The library has circulated nearly 5 million items during the past 12 months, officials said.