Board seeks input on library hours

The Craig-Moffat County Library Board is ready to approach the Moffat County Board of Commissioners with recommendations for operational hours and personnel, but members first want public input.

This summer an experiment began that left the library closed each Sunday for the first time in nine years. According Library Director Donna Watkins, it was closed due to low use and lack of personnel. Now the library board is ready to evaluate the experiment and has found little data on which to base a decision.

The few comments received were "It's nice to come in some Sunday afternoons" to "All businesses and institutions should be closed on Sundays."

"The board is now considering keeping the library closed on Sundays," Watkins said.

The Craig-Moffat County Library began staying open for four hours each Sunday in 1993 to accommodate Colorado Northwestern Community College students. The library began keeping records of student visits in October, 1997. Student use went from a high of 48 recorded visits in February 1998 to none recorded in May 1998.

"With the increased availability of research via the Internet the past year, college students have used the library less and less," Watkins said.

During the same time, Watkins said, participation in the Interlibrary Loan Program has also dropped.

"In fact," Watkins said, "the Craig branch now lends more than it borrows."

Another consideration for the board is personnel. Continually rising costs of cataloging new and contributed items to the library has grown so much the library has purchased software to finish the cataloging in-house. In the past, records have been sent out to be placed on library databases. Some of these records cost as much as $6 for a single book, Watkins said, and the cost continues to increase.

Using the new software, the Maybell and Dinosaur librarians have begun cataloging for all Moffat County libraries, but they are pulled away from public service duties while updating the records.

"If the Craig branch reopens Sundays for four hours, the library will be attempting to add more public service at the same time it is losing public service assistant time," Watkins said.

Questions for the community are: Should the library board recommend to commissioners that another employee be hired? Is there money in the budget if approved? Do the gas, electric and water bills warrant opening the library on Sunday afternoons?

"The board is trying to balance these financial concerns against the public's need for more and possibly more convenient library hours," Watkins said.

People wanting to comment are invited to attend the board meeting a 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18.

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