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Plan would increase branch library hours

June 21, 2013

By G. Michael Dobbs


SPRINGFIELD — While a plan for the city library system would include the re-purposing of two branches, Molly Fogarty, director of the Springfield City Library, said it would add hours to other branches and begins the process of creating a financially sustainable library system.

Fogarty said that if the City Council passes the proposed municipal budget without cuts to the library, the plan would be put in place in October, giving the library staff the summer to make preparations.

The plan, "re: think Springfield City Library," would "put us in a much better position [to apply] for foundation money," she explained.

The Sarno Administration asked for 15 percent more funding for the libraries in this year's budget, she said.

"This is a very positive direction for the library system," Fogarty said. If it had been level-funded, additional branches would require being closed.

In past years, due to budget constraints the library system has had to close and then re-open three branch libraries, which Fogarty said took three months for each action, costing the library staff valuable time.

Because of decreasing funding since 2004, the branch libraries in some cases have not been open enough to qualify for grants, she added.

Library Consultant Stephen Spohn Jr. analyzed the Springfield library system and noted that usage of the system has been affected by "diminished outreach and library hours." He write that while the 2010 funding for the library "appears to be average," He noted "that funding does not allow for the number of library locations, as funding, staffing and hours per location are all very low comparatively."

On library hours, he wrote they are "insufficient to maintain a sense of reliability and consistency for residents." He added, "Some residents are unable to use the library during its operating hours and some others have diminished their use of the library due to the lack of perceived reliability."

The plan would increase the outreach into the community by the library staff, establish a 30 hour a week schedule for the branch libraries, increase fundraising efforts, emphasize afterschool and weekend hours and activities and seek new partnerships with other groups, among other initiatives.

The plan would also realign the library staff into teams to focus on specific citywide concerns.

Of the branch libraries, the Pine Point library would be used as literacy center with the Read/Write/Now program, which would expand in the building. The branch's community room would be open for use by the neighborhood, Fogarty said, and a system for patrons to order books from the Central Library would be developed.

Fogarty said library staff members would be meeting the neighborhood council about the transition.

The Liberty Street Library would close and be used as a senior citizens drop-in center.

Fogarty said there is discussion about a new East Forest Park branch, which is currently in a rented space costing the city $34,000 a year. The second busiest library in the city, a new library was included in the Rebuild Springfield plans for the Island Pond Road neighborhood that was hit by the June 1, 2011 tornado.

She said the planning for such a new facility is in the "very early stages" and said that preparing to apply for a planning grant is still two to three years in the future.

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