In Gwinnett, Branch Won't Close as Proposed, but Will Become Computer Lab
New configuration includes three regions, each with one lab; residents still angry
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 09/24/2009
- Proposal to close branch generated protest
- New plan designates three regional libraries
- Systemwide reduced hours rejected
- Dacula residents still angry
The board of the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL), Lawrenceville, GA, won’t close the three-year-old Dacula branch as announced last month, but instead will convert it, and two others, into computer labs in a response to a ten percent budget cut. The new configuration divides the system into three regions, each with a regional library featuring expanded hours, plus three community branches and one computer lab.
GCPL, named LJ's 2000 Library of the Year, announced last month it would transfer Dacula's staff, collection, and funding to the in-construction Hamilton Mill branch in the same area. Under the current plan, Dacula will still serve as a location to pick up holds and may house a special collection.
GCPL spokeswoman Michelle Long explained that Hamilton Mill will be developed with newly ordered materials and integrated with materials from other branches as part of GCPL's floating collection model. Given that the library is under a hiring freeze, staff for Hamilton Mill will be comprised of employees transferred from existing branches.
Dacula residents still angry
The new plan, which passed the board 3-1 on Tuesday, still left many in Dacula angry. (A Save Dacula Library Facebook group has nearly 6000 members. Here’s a TV report.) The Gwinnett Daily Post reported that members of the Dacula business community will sue to stop the change.
Board member Philip Saxton, the lone dissenter on the board, had instead proposed that all 15 branches be kept open, with systemwide cuts in hours to 35.
Library officials said the regional library plan was best because it maintained systemwide computer access, the top request from the public. The library also rejected a plan not to open the new Hamilton Mill branch.
The board also agreed to revamp its fee structure, charging guests for computer use, charging $20 for community rooms, and freezing library cards of patrons who accumulate $15 in fines, instead of $25. Saxton’s proposal to double late fees from 20 cents daily to 40 cents was rejected as too onerous.
The plan that passed
A library memo offers justification for the plan that passed:
The 549 total number of open service hours is spread across seven open days and fifteen points of service making the library and its services accessible on any day of the week and within a short drive of any point in the county. Staff will move between the points as needed and all of the benefits of the lab scenario (place and pick up hold/requests, Help Desk assistance, classes on timely and relevant topics, catalog access, photocopier/printing, new library cards, online test proctoring, additional computers, WiFi service, fine payment, purchase of flash drives) will be available to customers who will be able to access a computer and library service any day of the week.
Saxton's rejected plan
A library memo explained arguments against Saxton's proposed cuts in hours:
At 35 open hours per week for each branch, library service would be based upon a five day service model and 7 open hours per day. The open days could roll so that there would be library service available on different days. While this appears to extend availability, it also creates some confusion for customers who could find it difficult to remember which branch is open on what day. It could also create a problem for request/holds pick-up since customers may expect to pick up a hold at a specified branch but find that branch closed on the day they arrive to pick up the material. Storytimes and programming would need to be squeezed into a small window of open morning hours which would pose some problems for Events and Outreach staff as they try to reach each of the fifteen branches with programming to meet the needs of the communities.
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