The Columbus Metropolitan Library is a wonderful library system that is consistently ranked as one of the best, if not the best, library systems in the nation. It has a fabulous selection; it has an excellent website; it is very easy to reserve and then borrow books, movies, and CDs. Kish and the boys and I have made extensive use of our library cards, and I think UJ does most of his blog postings from a library terminal. The only problem is that, for a working person like me, it is now very difficult to get to the library to actually pick up the items, much less browse — which is a big part of the fun of a library.
Last year the Ohio state government cut its library funding. The Columbus system responded by drastically reducing the hours branches are open to the public. The New Albany branch, which is the one that I use, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The branch is closed Sunday, which used to be a day I frequently visited the library. On most work days I don’t get home until about 7 p.m., if not later, which makes it difficult to eat dinner and then go to the library before its 8 p.m. close. That leaves Saturday, and if you have chores to do — like, say, shoveling out from under the latest snowstorm — it can be tough to budget Saturday daylight hours for a library visit, too.
I understand the need to cut back in the face of budget cuts, and as a balanced-budget advocate I can’t reasonably argue that the only governmental services that should be cut are those that I don’t use or need. Nevertheless, I wonder whether the library couldn’t modify its hours to allow for opening every other Sunday, or for an afternoon opening and then later evening hours on, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Is the New Albany branch really used as heavily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays as it was during its former Saturday and Sunday hours? This article indicates that Sunday was one of the busiest days (at the Reynoldsburg branch, at least).
The library system will have a renewal levy on the ballot come November. I’ll be voting yes, and hoping that the library board of trustees recommends a millage level that, if approved, will allow branch hours to be increased. Libraries are crucial parts of our communities and should be supported, even during tough economic times. In New Albany, where the library branch is an anchor of the Market Square district, that is particularly true.