Dade Library to Open Wednesdays

This fall, the Dade County Public Library plans to begin opening on Wednesdays, an addition made possible by a partial restoration of funding from the Dade County Board of Education.

"We're looking at starting that sometime in September or October," said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library, of which Dade's library is a branch. "We've been looking at how we could open a whole day."

The library is currently open 30 hours a week. The additional $10,000 kicked in by the Board of Education in its proposed fiscal year 2017 budget will allow it to open for 34, and those four hours will be stretched into a full day by shaving off an hour from the beginning of the other open days. That means the doors will be unlocked all week at 10 a.m. rather than 9 a.m.

The additional $10K will also help pay for more hours for a part-time youth programs employee -- but not a full-timer. That would mean providing health insurance, which is a $10,000 commitment in itself, said Ms. Eubanks.

The library discussed those changes, and adopted its own FY 2017 budget, at its quarterly board of directors meeting on Thursday. All changes, said Ms. Eubanks, are contingent on the Dade Board of Education voting to approve its budget as proposed.

The library was obliged to close all but three days a week --Tuesday, Thursday and Friday -- when the Board of Education, which had historically shared responsibility for funding the library with the Dade County and Trenton governments, abruptly ducked out from under in 2012. It paid nothing for two years and then restored $10,000 for fiscal 2015 and 2016, following which the library was able to open a few hours on Saturday.

Ms. Eubanks said that there have been discussions with the B of E about fully restoring its former share of roughly $38,000 -- at some point. For now, the library continues to squeeze all it can out of each funding dollar, and Ms. Eubanks pointed out what a boon it is that in Dade the county takes responsibility for cleaning the library building, sparing the system that expense.

Volunteers are also a boon at the library, but Ms. Eubanks said the much-discussed new federal overtime rules will now keep library employees from working without pay. The new rules decree that salaried workers paid under a certain threshold must earn time and a half for overtime hours. As it is, the library manager, Marshana Sharp, routinely works more than the hours she's paid for, and Ms. Eubanks said this must stop.

Usage-wise, said Ms. Eubanks said, the library is busier than ever, with circulation up 12 percent, computers always busy, and about 9000 users a year of the library's Wi-Fi now detectable. "People are sitting out in the parking lot using it," said Ms. Eubanks.

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