Wheaton ends dispute with library

Published: 8/4/2010 12:00 AM

City council members have ended a dispute with Wheaton Public Library officials by abandoning a proposal to mandate library hours.

The library board had been in hot water with council members over a plan to close the facility on Fridays. But then last month, the library board reversed its decision.

So the city council on Monday chose not to vote on a proposed law that would have required the library to be open six days a week during the summer and all seven days during the school year.

Councilman Phil Suess said the measure is unnecessary because library board members have agreed to reopen the facility from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays starting Sept. 10.

"We have the library board to run the library and I am grateful for that," Suess said. "A couple weeks ago, the library board took the high road with respect to their decision. I am appreciative of the council doing the same thing tonight."

Library board President Colleen McLaughlin said she is "thrilled" everything has come to a "peaceful conclusion."

Restoring four hours on Fridays will require the library to be open an hour less Monday through Thursday. The plan is to modify the operating hours on those days to 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

However, there are some concerns about the proposed closing time. McLaughlin said that's because most evening users of the library don't arrive until around 7 p.m.

"It's hard enough to get them out the door at 9 o'clock right now," she said. "So closing at 8:30 (p.m.) is going to be really problematic."

McLaughlin said she is planning to ask the city council to restore $25,000 to $30,000 of the $300,000 the city cut from the library's budget earlier this year. If the request is granted, the library could stay open until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The question is whether the city can afford to give the library more money. City officials fear Illinois might reduce Wheaton's share of the state income tax - a move that could cost the town roughly $1.3 million a year.

"If that doesn't come to pass, I certainly would support increasing funding for the library because I do think it's a great asset to our city," Councilman John Prendiville said. "It's used by many people, my family included."