Fewer library hours would be cut and more employees would keep their jobs under a revised plan for dealing with the Stanislaus County library system's financial troubles.
Instead of closing the county's 13 libraries two additional days per week, as proposed in a plan released May 1, the libraries would lose one day from their weekly schedules.
Library managers released the plan Friday, and it will go before the Board of Supervisors for approval Tuesday evening.
The Modesto library would be closed Sundays and switch to a six-day-a-week schedule. The plan would keep the lights on five days a week at the Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Salida, Riverbank, Patterson, Waterford and Keyes branches.
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The branches in Hughson, Empire, Denair and Newman would be open four days a week.
The library system is reeling from the region's poor economy, which has resulted in a dramatic decline in the revenue from the one-eighth-cent library sales tax and state funding tied to local contributions.
Early this month, county library officials announced a more drastic reduction in hours and staffing cuts that would have eliminated 94 part-time workers, including library assistants, pages and administrative clerks.
Library managers kept working on the plan. The new proposal would cut three full-time positions -- an executive assistant, account clerk and staff services technician -- and give pink slips to 70 of the 138 part-time staff members. The three full-time employees could be offered positions in other county offices.
"We were struggling with the impact we were going to have on the community," said Susan Lilly, public information officer for the county libraries. "We kept working at it so we could allow a little more access to the public."
The plan would take a regional approach to timing the closures. For example, when the Turlock branch is closed, the Denair or Hughson library would be open for area patrons. The closures would be timed similarly for the Riverbank and Oakdale, and Patterson and Newman libraries.
In other measures, the budget for acquiring books and materials would be slashed nearly in half. The county would defer maintenance and repairs, and reduce the budget for staff travel and training by 50 percent.
Sales tax decline requires cuts
The county is faced with carving $1.79 million from its library budget because of a 12 percent decrease in sales tax revenue projected for 2008-09 and a 66 percent decline in the revenue received from the Public Library Foundation and state support for literacy.
It's the first real trouble for the county library system since the funding cuts of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when hours were cut to 240 a week.
Those troubles led to a ballot measure that put the sales tax in place in 1995. The tax accounts for 85 percent of the library system's budget; county residents voted in 2004 to extend the sales tax through 2013.
With the proposed cuts, library hours would decline from 579 to 487 a week.
Sheridan Beuving, president of the county library advisory committee, said the revised plan is fair to all the local branches.
"It hurts, but you have to make cutbacks somewhere," he said. "The hardest ones are when you have to cut people from their jobs."
The former plan would have darkened the Turlock library three days a week. Currently, it is open Monday through Saturday.
"I think library patrons would have felt deprived," said Hanna Renning, president of Friends of the Turlock Public Library. "The library really is important to a lot of people, especially to young people who use it not only for socializing, but they do a lot of work on projects for school."
The Friends of the Library group has talked with the Turlock branch manager about furnishing volunteers to take over some jobs, such as maintaining bulletin boards and display racks, or pulling books from shelves for the circulation desk.
Renning said the group also could donate a few thousand dollars from book sales and other fund-raisers to buy materials.
Library officials are hoping the economy will revive so that more tax revenue is generated and library hours can be restored within a year or two.
The Board of Supervisors will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the
basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2321.