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Library hours cut, volunteers needed

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The Lincoln Libraries have been hard hit by the recent city layoffs, with six of 16 workers losing their jobs this week. Those layoffs came as part of the city’s need to balance its $1-million budget shortfall and have resulted in service cuts. Library hours have been reduced from a total of 72 per week between the two libraries to 43 per week. Those cuts became effective Monday at both the Twelve Bridges Library and the Carnegie Library. The cuts didn’t just affect hours, however. “Because we have fewer staff members, we have less time to actually process the items that can go out to the public,” said Librarian Andi Adkins-Pogue. Adkins-Pogue added that a state grant provided money for books, DVDs and other materials. With so little time to get them ready by covering them, shelving them and other necessary steps, she said, the materials are piling up in boxes. To get those materials ready, the Lincoln libraries will now have to rely on public volunteer help, Adkins-Pogue said. “We do have a tremendous volunteer base,” Adkins-Pogue said. “They donate 1,000 or more hours per month. Even with that, though, there’s still more that needs to be done.” A volunteer training session will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Twelve Bridges Library, Adkins-Pogue said. No experience is necessary and volunteers can help the public, cover books and shelve them, among other tasks. Forms should be picked up and filled out before attending the session. Despite volunteer efforts, there simply isn’t enough money to keep the facilities open every day. “We used to be open on Mondays,” Adkins-Pogue said. “Now we’re closed. That was tough because that was one of our busiest days, if not the busiest day.” She added that a sizable crowd was waiting at the door Tuesday as the library opened at 1 p.m., half an hour later than the previous time. “(Monday), the look on people’s faces as they drove up and saw that we were closed was shock,” said Director of Library Services Darla Wegener, who was talking with another employee in the parking lot Monday. “I really hate that we have to cut back but there’s no money.” Wegener added that she hopes the libraries can at least maintain the current level of service until the economy turns around. With more than 21,000 registered borrowers, Wegener said, the library provides direct service to more individuals than most city service organizations, except utilities. “You can’t run libraries without people,” Wegener said. “People are critical. People make us work. My staff is amazing.” Unfortunately, the last of the library’s layoffs will be sent out today, according to Wegener. “I cried last week,” said Library Assistant Jill Loya, adding that two employees from the Carnegie Library were lost. “I just wish we were open a couple more nights for the kids,” Loya said. “Tuesday and Thursdays were normally the afternoons when high school kids would come by to work on their papers.” One positive aspect, Loya said, is that she has heard patrons say they will use both libraries now, adding that doesn’t help those without transportation, such as the children who could walk to the downtown location. “Unfortunately, we have to respect the City Council’s decision,” Loya said. Throughout the budget-cutting process, which started in late November, all City Council members expressed their remorse at having to make the cuts to personnel and services. “I understand what’s going on,” said library user Paul Overgaard outside Twelve Bridges Library on Tuesday. “This is a nice library. It’s close to where I live. It’s unfortunate for the people who work there more than who use it. There’s a lot of people, though, who come down to use the library computers and it affects them.” Matt Reyes lives just down the street from the Carnegie Library but was going to Twelve Bridges Library Tuesday afternoon. “I’m highly disappointed that there’s not many hours,” Reyes said. “Coming down here is kind of hard.” Reyes added that he doesn’t have a vehicle and he needs to wait until late in the day to get a ride to the library. Wegener said that she has been impressed with the way local and national communities have rallied around the libraries – something she has not seen in the last three or four economic downturns she has experienced in more than 25 years in the field. “The people of Lincoln appreciate the services we have,” Wegener said. The library, Wegener added, is a form of public safety, as it helps prevent crime by giving children a place to go after school. “If you talk to us in three weeks,” Wegener said, “we’ll still be sad but we’ll be bringing the best service we can.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com. Additional information: Carnegie Library: Location – 590 Fifth St. Hours – noon to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and closed Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Twelve Bridges Library Location – 485 Twelve Bridges Drive Hours – 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and closed Sundays and Mondays.