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Budget ax hangs over EDH library

By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Budget cuts are forcing the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors to consider reducing the hours of operation at county libraries just when usage of those facilities is on the rise. El Dorado Hills Librarian Susan Covington said a decision will be made next month. “Like all departments in El Dorado County, the libraries are dealing with cuts,” she said. “We have lost three positions. Two of those were vacancies that were on the verge of being filled.” She said the cuts affect all branches and could impact services. “The libraries also lost (the equivalent of a full-time position of) extra help hours,” she said. “Some branches are open six days a week and three evenings and we don’t have enough full-time people to cover all of those hours.” New reading material is also on the chopping block. “All branches have experienced cuts in our book budgets,” she said. The library in El Dorado Hills is showing a 20 percent rise in “circulation” over last year, meaning more residents are using the facility. “All libraries in the El Dorado County system are seeing large increases in the number of books, audio books and videos checked out,” she said. She points to the poor economy as the reason behind the rise. “Traditionally, the public turns to their libraries when economic conditions worsen. We have more families using the library as entertainment and enjoying library programs, books and other resources,” Covington said. “Rather than buying books, people are realizing that they can borrow the best-sellers as well as other titles from their libraries and it’s free.” Those struggling to find jobs are also turning to the library. “The interesting part is that our libraries are busier than they’ve ever been,” she said. “We have an increase in the numbers of patrons using the Internet computers for job searches and other needs.” Omar Rogers, of El Dorado Hills, frequently uses the library computers and research resources. “I use the library for online searches and books,” she said. Her home computer isn’t as good or fast, so she comes to the library often. “I think (cutting hours) would be awful,” she said. “I could come at 6 or 7 at night, so my hours vary. I would hate that.” Rogers has two children who also use the library. “My kids do projects for school,” she said. John Leichty is considering moving to El Dorado Hills where his daughter’s family has relocated. He previously resided in Los Angeles and Hawaii. “I’ll probably stay,” he said. Using the computer at the library is his way of staying in touch with friends he’s left behind in L.A. and Hawaii. “That’s too bad,” he said when asked what he thought about reducing the library’s hours. “That’s a bureaucratic mistake. … The library is the wrong thing to attack.” For Marissa Reeve, 15, of El Dorado Hills, the library is her only source of education. “I’m currently not in school,” she said. “I was expelled. I probably get six books here every week and I use the Internet. I come here to think.” She said reducing the library’s hours would not make her happy. “It would affect me a lot,” she said. “It would impact my life and what education I get now. I would be mad.” For Covington, the real issue is trying to provide services for the public with a trimmed down budget. She credits the Friends of the Library organization with helping the facility cope the financial crisis. “The Friends do extensive fundraising to help the libraries fund their book purchases and programs,” she said.