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Sunday library hours could be extended to summer

Washington County flagship libraries, including R.H. Stafford in Woodbury and Park Grove in Cottage Grove, could be guinea pigs in a pilot project to see if Sunday hours need to become permanent all year long.

The two libraries are already open on Sundays during the school year, but county officials are considering a proposal to keep them open on Sundays in the summer, too.

Library Director Pat Conley said the average hourly use is about the same when comparing school year and summer months, but the types of uses are different.

She said the reason hourly use may be higher in the summer is because multiple people use the computers for short periods of time, while school year visitors are logging on for hours at a time.

Until 2012, five of the nine Washington County library branches were open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Then revenue reductions in 2012 closed three small branches and moved to reduce days and hours of service in the remaining six branches.

Facing tough public criticism, the county reopened the Woodbury branch on Sundays during the school year last year.

The proposed pilot project for 2014 will allow the county to compare Sunday usage during the summer against Sundays during the school year.

Conley said she will then report on this pilot project before the County Board sets its tax levy and budget for 2015 at the end of this year.

Washington County Library reports its usage based on four indicators: computer usage, circulation, visits and reference questions.

“Historically, these factors have been aggregated into annual figures and could be broken into days of the week by month,” according to a county board memo.

The library usage on Sundays in the summers of 2012 and 2013 is not available since the three flagship branches, including Forest Lake, were closed.

But Conley said in 2011, 2010, and 2009, the numbers are consistent.

“The average hourly use is about the same,” she said, but added, “There is a change in the character of people.”

County Commissioner Lisa Weik, who represents Woodbury on the board, said she’s supportive of the pilot project especially considering job seekers in need of computer access seven days a week.

“It’s hard to look for a job especially if you’re under-employed and have a couple of part-time jobs,” she said.

Pending final approval from the County Board, the pilot project will compare data from June through August against January through May of 2014.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.