Libraries to close 4 days to save

To reduce costs by $170,000 in 2011, Wichita's public library will put its employees on furlough and close all nine of its locations on four additional days.

One furlough and closure date is set for each quarter, starting with Jan. 7.

"We've tried to spread these out for our users," said library director Cynthia Berner Harris. "We looked at days where we knew we had low traffic."

The four furlough dates will save the city $80,000. A little more than $90,000 will be saved by shifting four full-time positions to eight part-time positions, Harris said.

The furlough dates will affect all 155 employees — 90 full time, 65 part time.

As cities around the country have dealt with tighter budgets, libraries have been a prime target. Dallas' library budget of $13 million for 2011 is 46 percent less than it was in 2008.

By comparison, Wichita's library budget of $8.05 million for next year is down about 2 percent from 2010. Most of that reduction is from federal and state grants, which account for about 6 percent of the library's budget.

City funds for the library budget went up $17,000 for 2011 over this year. But in order to offset such increased expenses as salaries and benefits, the library had to reduce costs elsewhere, Harris said.

Some public libraries around the country have opted to meet budget cuts by taking weeklong furloughs, shortening hours or reducing staffing or resource material.

"Nobody likes furloughs, nobody likes many of these options," she said. "I really think this particular option for our community was a solution that really minimizes disruption for the citizen."

The other three furlough and closure dates are April 25, the Monday after Easter Sunday; Aug. 19, after the end of summer reading club; and Nov. 23, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Remaining cuts were made by reorganizing staff. There will no longer be full-time branch managers at four small neighborhood locations — Comotara, 2244 N. Rock Road; Linwood Park, 1901 S. Kansas; Orchard Park, 4808 W. Ninth St.; and Angelou Northeast, 3051 E. 21st St.

Managers at four larger branches will oversee the four smaller ones, Harris said.

The four managers at the small branches will be replaced with eight part-timers. Although total staffing time won't be reduced, Harris said, money will be saved with fewer benefits and lower salaries.

All four of those affected by the change still have a job, Harris said.

Three of those small branch managers have accepted a nonsupervisory job at less pay within the department. The fourth moved to another city department.

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