by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
ROSWELL, Ga. - Fulton County leaders are taking heat for their decision to cut library hours as part of their overall plan to shore up the county budget.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik found dozens of angry patrons outside the Roswell Public Library Branch, which like all 33 branches in the county, has had to cut its hours.
“I guess if the money isn’t there they need to do something, but it seems there could be some other means to keep it open,” said Lois Lucas.
Lisa Allen brought her young son with her to the branch for an afternoon of reading, but was disappointed to see the doors locked.
“I think it’ll be kind of sad for people to come to the library and read books and do homework and things like that,” Allen said. “Please do whatever you can to open the library back to its normal working hours.”
County commissioner chairman John Eaves told Petchenik it was a tough choice to cut funding for the library system, but he said commissioners had to make up a $50 million shortfall.
“We had to do some budget cuts, not just on the library side, but on Grady hospital, criminal justice, all the services we had to provide,” he said.
Eaves told Petchenik, even with budget cuts, Fulton County still provides more library services than its neighbors.
“We can’t stay open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but I still think we reached a reasonable compromise,” he said. “I realize and recognize some people aren’t happy with what we’ve done.”
Atlanta-Fulton County Library system spokeswoman, Kelly Robinson Vann, sent Petchenik a statement about the library cuts, which took effect Feb. 12:
“On January 27th, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved the 2014 budget which did include a reduction in operating funds for the Library System. In spite of the resulting reduction in hours of operation from 1,562 a week to 996, Fulton County’s libraries continue to offer more hours of service than any of the surrounding counties. The 2014 budget also includes operating funds to open the new libraries under construction that will open in 2014 and early 2015. Public access to libraries is a priority. The Library System’s 2014 budget ensures all 33 libraries remain open. While most branch libraries will be closed on Fridays and many on another day of the week, the operating hours do include Saturday and Sunday service, as statistics indicate heavy use on those days. Current usage including circulation, computer use, and meeting room use was considered when developing the new operating hours. The Library System continues to offer innovative programs, services and virtual resources tailored to meet the needs of each community it serves.”