Published: Jul 13, 2008 10:12 AM
Modified: Jul 13, 2008 10:12 AM
The Carrboro Branch Library has always faced a difficult road.
Ever since it opened a dozen years ago, it has operated without a building to call its own. The library is inside McDougle Schools. Not only does that limit its visibility, but it means the facility can function as a public library only during non-school hours -- weekends and late afternoons and evenings during the week.
It is thanks to a remarkably dedicated and determined staff and Friends of the Library group that the Carrboro Branch Library has managed to overcome those hurdles.
Now comes word that the Orange County public library system, of which the Carrboro branch is a part, has imposed severe cuts to the library's already slender hours of operation.
Even before the cuts, Carrboro was open only 24 hours a week, far and away the fewest of any of the system's four libraries. The cuts, which went into effect on July 1, slashed the branch's temporary staff by 62 percent and reduced its operating hours to just 17 hours per week. The Carrboro branch now is closed altogether on Mondays.
The Orange County main branch in Hillsborough, by contrast, had its hours barely shaved, from 64 hours to 60 (and actually had its budget increased). The Carrboro Cybrary, the small library inside the Century Center downtown, didn't have its hours cut at all.
The cuts caught everyone by surprise, including the Orange County commissioners. The inequitable distribution of cuts was especially startling in view of the Orange County Library Task Force's recent recommendation that library services should be increased in the southwestern part of the county -- that is, the area served by the Carrboro Branch Library.
The commissioners are to discuss the task force report and possible implementation of its recommendations this fall. The unexpected announcement of cuts appeared to jump the gun on that discussion.
Money is tight everywhere. But the supporters and users of the Carrboro Branch Library justifiably feel they've been burdened with an unfair share of the load. The library will never gain traction if users rarely find it open.
The Chapel Hill Public Library, which is not a part of the Orange County system, is stressed from over-use; Mayor Kevin Foy recently asked the county for more money to help offset the large number of non-town residents who use the town library.
The population of Carrboro and its outlying region is more than sufficient to support a fully functioning library. A library in that area, with regular hours and a full staff and services, would be an enormous benefit to residents of that area and would also ease the pressure on the Chapel Hill library. That should be the ultimate goal.
If you have a comment on today's editorial, please contact Dave Hart, associate editor, at 932-8744 or firstname.lastname@example.org