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Flower Memorial Library trustees ponder cutting Sundays out of summer

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When the temperature rises, will the lights stay on?

Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library trustees were at odds during a meeting Tuesday on whether to cut Sunday hours for a few months in the summer.

“My recommendation is that we’re not open during July and August because we’re stretched thin those months,” Library Director Barbara J. Wheeler said.

She stressed that the decision did not have to be made that day.

The Sunday trial, which ran from Oct. 7 through Nov. 25, was a success, according to both the Watertown City Council and the library trustees. About 170 patrons came through the doors the first Sunday the library was open. The library averaged nearly 250 patrons the first six Sundays.

To continue having the library open seven days a week for the rest of this fiscal year, two clerks were hired temporarily using reallocated money originally budgeted to build stairs behind the library.

At February’s meeting, library trustees requested two clerks in its 2013-14 budget proposal to work 20 hours a week.

Board President Constance A. Holberg said they could be used to fill in for librarians who go on vacation if Sunday hours are reduced.

“From a pure statistical point, we should go with (Sunday hours in) June and July, according to these numbers, but August is questionable,” Trustee Matthew A. Doheny said.

The numbers he was referring to were from a 2011-12 summer comparison prepared by Mrs. Wheeler. According to the statistics, total circulation increased 15.4 percent and attendance increased nearly 11 percent last summer. The only drop in attendance was in August, when 0.5 percent fewer people came to the library.

Despite the statistics, he was not sure any month should be devoid of Sunday hours.

Mr. Doheny said he felt that because the clerks, who will be hired to work Sundays, are budgeted as full-year hires, there was no need to cut Sunday out of the library’s schedule.

“The logic is that Sunday could be better because it’s a day off and people can bring their kids,” he said.

Although Mrs. Wheeler has commented how slow Saturdays were last summer, other factors — the reading program and various events — lead to higher traffic at the library.

“Though last year was our first year of being open on Saturdays and they were slow, plans are to continue Saturdays in the summer,” Mrs. Wheeler said in an email.

At the meeting, she said it is mandatory for librarians to work on weekend days if there is an event planned in their department that day. Working on the weekend means they get a day off during the week, which means someone else — such as a part-time clerk — could fill in.

Trustee Carolyn D. Weldon was also against cutting Sundays out of the library schedule.

“I’m hesitating because we’ve gotten a fairly positive response from the community ever since we were open Sunday,” she said.

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