First and foremost, the four-library system will soon reduce its time open to the public to just 30 hours per week. LaFayette-Walker County Library manager Tim York said that the exact days and times of operation have not yet been decided, but for the main branch at least, it will most likely mean four day per week service, hopefully including Saturdays.
The LaFayette library was forced to begin closing on Saturdays in August 2011 due to financial constraints. York is hopeful that, even though other days will be lost in the new cuts, the popular weekend day will yet be restored.
“At least we get the Saturday in there that we haven’t had in awhile,” he said.
In addition to reduced hours, three employees total were cut from the three Walker County library branches — LaFayette, Chickamauga and Rossville. Three more are losing their benefits and nine others will have reduced working hours.
Despite the cuts, demands for the library’s services are perhaps higher than ever. For some months, the LaFayette branch has long been closed until after lunch on Thursdays, prompting huge crowds waiting for the doors to be unlocked.
“We were swamped when we opened the door at one o’clock,” said York Thursday afternoon, June 7.
That afternoon, a teen summer reading program meeting filled up tables behind the circulation desk with teenagers happily plastering aluminum foil and masking tape to their faces, creating and painting creative “death masks.” The teen program remains one of the library’s most popular services and is still going strong despite the cutbacks.
Indeed, even more programs and services are becoming in demand at the library more than ever before. An adult summer reading program was inaugurated this season, said York, and appears to be rapidly taking off.
In addition, beginning the week of June 11, the LaFayette library will begin offering its first beginners’ genealogy class, to be followed in July with a new beginning photography class. Despite his excitement about the programs, York worries that these will not only be their first iterations, but also their last.
“We’re going to be offering these things maybe for the last time,” he said.
The library’s system-wide changes and cutbacks will go into effect July 1, the starting date of the increased health insurance costs, which, compacted with decreased school board funding, necessitated the personnel and service cutbacks.