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Local News

Public Library Extends Service Around City

Lower wages and higher fees will help re-open six libraries for Sunday service.

The Louisville Free Public Library started closing branches on Sundays starting in 2008 due to budget cuts. It was able to salvage this cut after increasing late fees on Jul. 1 from 10 to 20 cents, and re-negotiating union contracts. Library employees will now be paid time-and-a-half for working Sundays. Before they were earning double-time. But keeping libraries open on Sunday was a high public demand, said Craig Buthod, executive director of the Louisville Free Public Library.

“We heard about it every day from people asking us, Why aren’t you open on Sundays? I’ve also come down to the main library on Sundays and watched as people rattled the doors to see if we were open,” he said.

This will also give students access to libraries on all days before school, said Buthod.

Next Sunday will be the formal re-opening of six branches, which includes Iroquois, Okolona, Southwest, Bon Air, St. Mathews and the Main downtown libraries. When the renovations are done at the Shawnee branch, it will become the seventh library to re-open for Sunday service. Mayor Greg Fischer will try to make an appearance at all six branches, said Buthod.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Adovates Rally for Legislators to Up Funds for Libraries

More then 100 people braved the weather to be in Frankfort today for Kentucky Libraries Day. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

A rally in the Capitol rotunda comes after public libraries throughout the commonwealth have seen state support fall by 22 percent, or $900,000.

One of the speakers was Louisville Free Public Library Director Craig Buthod, who the Library Journal recently named its Librarian of the Year.

“The forces of public libraries are here,” he said. “Modestly and humbly, we ask your help, the elected leaders of the commonwealth, in making sure public libraries don’t crash and burn, that we don’t fall short of what our possibilities are, that we don’t sell education short in libraries across the whole commonwealth.”

The rally, organized in large part by the Kentucky Library Association, also included legislators who are part of a bipartisan caucus focused on public libraries.

State Sen. Robin Webb of Grayson is co-chair of that caucus. She says legislators need to recognize how important libraries are to Kentuckians economic survival, especially during a recession.

“In these times, services like libraries go up, the needs are greater,” she says. “And I think that we acknowledge that. We can talk about it, discuss it and hopefully, again — it’s all about prioritization.”

Library advocates also appealed to lawmakers to restore funding for the state’s 75-year-old bookmobile program, which serves some of the commonwealth’s neediest and most isolated populations.

For more on Kentucky’s bookmobiles, read or listen to Bookmobiles Weather Economic Crisis, So Far.

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Bookmobiles Weather Economic Crisis, So Far

Yes, the economy is tanking, but library use is climbing. The American Library Association says patrons nationwide are checking out more books and movies and using computers and reference materials for job searches. And in many of Kentucky’s rural areas, the demand for library services extends far beyond the stacks, prompting WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer to hit the back roads.

Jim Tucker is talking me for a ride. He’s a librarian and the driver for the Casey County Library’s bookmobile. Today we’re crisscrossing the hills of Central Kentucky to visit homes and schools.

“And this is our first stop,” he says and honks his horn as we reach the top of a hill.

“Where are we?” I ask.

“We are on the top of South Fork Ridge at the home of Michael Byrd and his mother,” he says.

Michael Byrd, a stout man with a beard, steps into this book-lined van with an armload of some very thick books.

“Good morning,” Tucker says to him.

“Good morning y’all,” says Byrd. “How’re you all today?”

“Fine,” Tucker says. “And I have some books you might want to look through.”

Byrd reads about 10 books a week and cares of his 93-year-old mother round the clock. Like many people on Tucker’s routes, he doesn’t get to the county seat of Liberty often.

“Be careful going home in the snow,” Tucker tells Byrd as he steps off the bookmobiles.

“I will,” Byrd says.

There are many people like Byrd along the roughly one-thousand miles Tucker travels each month. There are also Amish communities, families who home school their children, and schools. In a year’s time, Tucker makes about 500 unique stops to serve more than 4,000 patrons.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis has prompted the state to cut funding to local libraries by nearly 15 percent and eliminate the grant program that once helped purchase new vehicles.

Casey County Library director Jan Banks says librarians throughout the state are feeling the pinch.

“Most libraries that I know will squeeze a penny ‘til it squeals” Banks says. “But we’ve got to have those pennies to squeeze.”

Banks says she saves money by putting off the purchase of materials and computers. But she wouldn’t dream of cutting the bookmobile program.

“It would be kind of a cruel thing to do — I don’t know whether cruel’s exactly the word — but it’s a program that helps people that really need assistance,” she says. “It gives them someone that comes to their house when they might not see anybody for a long time.”

Kentucky has 85 bookmobiles, more than any other state, and a deep devotion to them. It’s tied to a rich history and a project to boost literacy headed by Mary Bingham, of the family that owned Louisville’s prominent media properties. In 1954, the project presented the governor with 84 vehicles.

Today, many of the nation’s 900 bookmobiles, including some in Kentucky, are outfitted with computers. Some are designed for specific use by the elderly or — like the bookmobile at the Kenton County Public Library in Covington — to serve young children at day care centers.

Wayne Onkst once worked on the bookmobile there. Today, he’s the commissioner of Kentucky’s Department for Libraries and Archives. He says bookmobiles are more efficient then opening up new branches, and they do more than help people read.

“In many rural counties, many of the residents are so isolated, and the bookmobile is a lifeline,” Onkst says.

But keeping bookmobile programs alive could become a problem. As the state reduced funding, some libraries — like those in Casey and Kenton counties — began supporting their bookmobiles through sponsorships from businesses.

But that kind of support might not last in this economic crisis, and it has some librarians, like Jan Banks, wondering how some of Kentucky’s bookmobiles will stay on the road.

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Local News

Service Cuts Take Effect Today

This Sunday is the first that many Metro Louisville libraries will be closed. The closures are part of the budget cuts Mayor Jerry Abramson made to shore up a $20 million shortfall.

To further save money, one aquatic center will close on Sundays, Otter Creek Park will close indefinitely and several capital projects will be delayed. Also, community centers will be closed tomorrow and every Monday going forward. Metro Parks spokesperson Jason Cissell says the department either had to close two centers, or adjust hours across-the-board.

“The way to work this out with our union was to make an across the board decision was going to be the most effective way to implement this change and achieve these savings,” he says. “Monday was the day that, looking at the programming and service, made the most sense.”

The service cuts are expected to save the city about $3.4 million.