The doors of five public libraries across Anaheim, Orange County’s largest city, may soon open on an additional day of the week starting July 1.
City council members voted 6-1 at their Feb. 28 meeting to spend over $1.5 million to open up Central, Haskett, Canyon Hills, East and Sunkist libraries an extra day of the week on either Saturday or Sunday. Some of the money will be geared towards additional programming and books.
Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, who requested the increase in library operation hours, said at the meeting that while campaigning for office, a lot of working parents called for more public libraries to be opened on the weekend.
“Opening up and having more weekend access when people are not at work traditionally, when kids are not in school is really important,” Aitken said.
Aitken’s father, Wylie, chairs the Voice of OC’s board of directors.
Councilwoman Natalie Meeks was the lone dissenting vote who called for a scaled down request centered on just extending operating hours and not increasing programming.
“I want the extra library hours,” she said at the meeting. “I want to staff the libraries and have them open as a first step, and then see how much programming we can afford in next year’s budget.”
“I love libraries, but I would rather start small and add more in the budget process if we can.”
Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava pointed out that a bulk of the money was geared towards staffing.
Initially, the proposed discussion on expanding operational hours only included Haskett, Central, East and Canyon Hills libraries with staffing estimating the change costing around $1.3 million – about $1.14 million for staffing and about $139,000 for operating expenses, according to a staff report.
At the meeting, Councilwoman Norma Campos Kurtz and Councilman Stephen Faessel also called for the Sunkist Library – which is located in the district Faessel represents by the 57 freeway – to open on Saturday.
“These libraries are very, very fundamental services that the community expects the city government to perform,” Faessel said.
He added, “Most often residents receive their opinion of city government based upon the simple things and we need to do the simple things well, and I think libraries, not that they’re simple they’re very complicated, but they’re a very common service that communities expect.”
Rubalcava supported the request and included the fifth library in her motion to adopt the change.
City staff said opening Sunkist Library on a Saturday would cost about $250,000.
The discussion came after Aitken and other council members raised cost concerns at a Feb. 7 meeting about doubling the $750,000 budget of a city commissioned investigation into alleged corruption at city hall following a request from investigators.
Council members ended up approving the investigators’ request at their Feb. 28 meeting following pressure from some Anaheim residents and local non-profit Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD), along with Chispa, a Santa Ana-based community advocacy group.
[Read: Anaheim Officials Reverse Course and Fully Fund an Independent City Corruption Probe]
The decision also comes after some residents have called for more city spending on community services including public pools.
Anaheim’s Public Library
Anaheim has seven main libraries – the three story Central library near CIty Hall and 6 neighborhood branches. One of the branches includes the Ponderosa joint-use library shared with Ponderosa Elementary School
The city also has two mobile library vehicles – the Exploration on Wheels Van and the Bookmobile, which stops at different places in Anaheim.
ARTIC, Anaheim’s nearly vacant transportation center, has a book vending machine which allows people with a library card to check out books for free. And there is the Anaheim Heritage Center which contains historical records, newspaper archives and books by local authors.
Visit the City’s website to learn more about Anaheim’s libraries.
“Opening Anaheim public libraries on additional weekend days will result in added community programs, resources and services at times that are more convenient for the patrons,” said Sjany Larson-Cash, the city’s director of community services, at Tuesday’s meeting.
She also said during the Great Recession of 2008 full time library staff was cut from 60 to 31 people – staffing levels that haven’t been restored.
“Today we have 33, we have been adding hours back to our systems after these draconian cuts,” Larson-Cash said.
“We are at the tipping point. We have management staff who are sitting at the circulation desk, at public service counters, just so that we are managing all of our public service bases when our libraries are open. So we are playing a big puzzle game right now making this happen.”
That’s part of why they have a need for large staffing, she said.
The change will mean Central Library and Haskett Library, which is located in the west part of town, will open seven days a week with the expected addition of Sunday operating hours.
The East Anaheim Library is also expected to open on Sunday. The branch is currently open Monday through Thursday as well as on Saturday.
The Canyon Hills Library is expected to open on Saturday with the change and currently operates Monday through Friday.
Sunkist Library currently is open Monday through Friday as well. With the change, it will also be expected to open on Saturday.
The Euclid Branch will not see a change in hours. Staff said it would cost another $250,000 to open the Euclid library for another day.
Anaheim Librarian Audrey Lujan said residents have called for Sunday hours at the Central Library and Saturday hours at Canyon Hills Library and that the initial four libraries picked to open an extra day was based in part by size.
“If you add the square footage of, say, Canyon, Haskett and Central, you’re getting your biggest real estate. The other branches are neighborhood branches and they’re very well used, but they’re 10,000 square feet,” she said.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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