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Wheaton library to close on Fridays to save
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/20/2010 5:02 PM

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The Wheaton Public Library will be closed on Fridays beginning next month.

Library officials said the Friday closures are needed to make up for the loss of $300,000 in property tax revenue the city withheld to deal with its own budgetary problems.

"It wasn't the only option," library board President Colleen McLaughlin said of the closures, which take effect June 4, "it was the option that we felt was the most doable."

The library already made a variety of budget cuts in 2009 after its funding was reduced by $300,000.

"We've cut the material and database budget as much as we can without saying, 'OK, there won't be any new books or periodicals,'" McLaughlin said. "There are a lot of fixed costs that we have absolutely no control over."

Further cuts had to involve staffing, she said. As a result, the library's full- and part-time employees will see their pay reduced by 10 percent and be required to take 26 furlough days this year.

McLaughlin said it was a difficult decision. But, she said, most library board members feel it's the best way to balance a budget that's been slashed by $600,000 over two years while still meeting "our responsibility to see that our library continues to provide quality services to the community."

The Friday closures are tied to the furlough days because the 124,518-square-foot facility can't open without proper staffing. There are 24 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees, including 19 student assistants.

The decision to close on Fridays was made, in part, because it's the least busy day of the week for the library.

But with the library averaging more than 50,000 visitors a month, officials acknowledge some residents are going to consider the closures an inconvenience. The library already is closed on Sundays during the summer.

"Nobody is going to look favorably at this," McLaughlin said. "People expect the library to be open when they want to go to the library."