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Stafford among libraries slated for 2-day reduction

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news Woodbury, 55125

Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Washington County's libraries would be closed for business two days a week under a budget proposal announced last week.

The proposal calls for libraries to be closed on Sundays and Mondays - an option proposed Tuesday, Aug. 16, by county library officials looking to resolve a funding shortfall. Two key revenue streams that currently total about $500,000 are being cut off for 2012: funding from Lake Elmo, which is poised to secede from the county library system, and state aid for county programs.

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The plan also calls for 5.5 full-time equivalent positions to be eliminated. County Library Director Pat Conley said it's too early to say which buildings would be affected by potential layoffs.

Hours from Tuesday through Saturday would remain the same at Woodbury's R.H. Stafford branch, at Cottage Grove's Park Grove branch and at three other county libraries.

The county library system's collections budget - the fund used to purchase circulation items -would be reduced by about $100,000, Conley added.

"We hope that this will keep us functioning," she said of the budget. "It is what it is."

While the proposal - which has not yet received official board action -looks to scale back operations at Washington County libraries, Conley said it could result in some hours coming back to Cottage Grove and Newport libraries.

She said those locations will be adding back hours under the proposal, including mornings at the Park Grove branch, which saw those hours eliminated in recent years.

If approved by County Board, the changes would go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Commissioners will be asked to approve a preliminary levy in September and adopt the final levy in December.

But Commissioner Lisa Weik, who represents part of Woodbury, said she would like to see other options surrounding the proposal explored before the board takes action.

Weik proposes turning to other arms of local government to help back-fill any gaps created in library offerings as a result of county cuts.

Specifically, Weik - who serves on the county's library board - hopes to get schools to open up their libraries after hours.

She acknowledged how some residents would like to see libraries on every corner.

"Not to be flip," she said, "but we already have libraries on every corner. They're called schools."

East Ridge High School Principal Aaron Harper said "we'd be open to hearing how that might work."

Many county library users come for the free, public Internet access. Weik said schools could play a role if that access becomes more limited.

"There are hundreds of PCs sitting in schools across Washington County that taxpayers pay for," Weik said.

Weik said she also hopes tweaks to the library budget proposal can allow the Stafford location - which she noted is the largest and most centrally located branch in the county - to remain open on Sundays.

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