Washington County libraries will reopen Mondays

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2012 - 8:56 PM

The branch in Woodbury also will be open Sundays through the school year. Other reopenings begin in January.

Libraries managed by Washington County will reopen on Mondays, and the largest one in Woodbury now will open on some Sundays.

In a sharp reversal of sentiment, the County Board voted unanimously late last month to restore hours that been chopped in January during a round of budget cuts.

"I think we've heard loud and clear that library hours are important," said Commissioner Autumn Lehrke.

The closures at the county's six libraries, including the flagship R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury, led to a wave of public complaints. The County Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 in favor of restoring service.

In January, the Stafford library and branch libraries in Forest Lake, Cottage Grove, Oakdale and Mahtomedi will reopen Mondays from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Valley library in Lakeland will reopen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Sundays, only the Stafford library will reopen -- and only through the school year. New hours beginning in January will be 1-5 p.m.

"We built the buildings to be used," said Dennis Hegberg, who chairs the board. "I think it's good that we are doing this for the public."

The county's volunteer library board concurred with the decision, said Commissioner Lisa Weik.

The county eliminated 11 staff positions after the library budget was cut by $489,000 in January. Contributing to that reduction was a loss of $260,000 in tax revenue when Lake Elmo withdrew from the county library system to start its own library.

Patrons of county libraries understood the county's budget decision, said Library Director Pat Conley, but they made their opinions known about the disruption in service.

"What we have gotten is sorrow or resignation," she said of public comments made to librarians.

County libraries have struggled with budget cuts in recent years as commissioners tightened spending. Staff salaries make up about 60 percent of the overall library budget, Conley said.

Some new library workers will be hired, she said, and training will take eight to 12 weeks. The cost of restoring hours in 2013 will be $284,000. Most of that will come from increased fee revenue in the Property Records and Taxpayer Services Department.

Of the county's six libraries, the Stafford library will be open the most at 61 hours a week. Hardwood Creek in Forest Lake and Park Grove in Cottage Grove will have 57 hours. Oakdale and Wildwood in Mahtomedi will open 45 hours a week. The Valley branch library in Lakeland will be open 24 hours a week.

Smaller county "express" libraries exist in Hugo, Newport and Marine on St. Croix. Stillwater and Bayport have city libraries that are considered "associate" county libraries.

Additional information about Washington County libraries is available at www.startribune.com/a1767.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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