There likely will be fewer new books and less time to check them out if the Lawrence Public Library is ordered to follow through on $177,000 worth of budget cuts.
Bruce Flanders, executive director of the library, said Monday that his staff still was working on options to respond to a 6 percent cut that City Manager David Corliss is recommending to shore up a troubled city budget. But Flanders said the most likely scenario would be to cut the library's hours of operation and reduce the number of books and materials the library purchases.
"It is probably going to be noticeable to the public, whatever we do," Flanders said.
Flanders said he hopes to have some recommendations for the city's Library Board - the group that oversees the library's operations - to consider by the end of the month. Flanders said he could envision up to a 10 percent cut in library hours, which would amount to a reduction of about eight hours per week.
Surveys have found that library use is at its lowest during the early weekday hours. Flanders said opening the library later than 9 a.m. on weekdays might be an option.
The library is open 73 hours per week: from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
A reduction in hours, though, won't be enough to meet the $177,000 in ordered cuts. Flanders said a preliminary analysis found that cutting library operations by four hours a week for the remainder of 2007 would result in about $25,000 in savings.
Flanders said cutting back on book purchases was another likely option. The library has about $300,000 remaining in its budget this year to buy new materials.
"The budget we have now for new purchases is not extraordinary," Flanders said.
He said cutting back on purchases could create a "gap in information" the library may have to live with for years.
At least one city commissioner, though, wants to discuss the possibility of modifying the cuts that Corliss has recommended. Commissioner Boog Highberger said he was concerned about the cuts to the library and several social service agencies.
"I have concerns about doing this to organizations that we already have made a commitment to," Highberger said. "Rearranging our city budget is one thing, but asking people and organizations to rearrange their budgets on such short notice makes me a little uncomfortable."
Other commissioners, however, backed Corliss' approach of ordering 6 percent across the board cuts for all outside agencies - organizations that are not technically part of the city's governmental operations.
"I think we have to approach all these outside agencies with the same percentage decrease in funding," City Commissioner Mike Dever said. "If you start making choices between individual agencies, you end up with a political scene that we're trying to avoid."
Flanders said he understands the city is facing about a $1 million shortfall in sales tax collections and expects to see a significant slowdown in growth of property tax receipts. But he said it was still disappointing to see the library's budget on the chopping block - given there's been a lot of discussion about building a new library and improving library services.
"We have set new levels of use for the library for many years running now, and we fear that could come to a screeching halt later this year because we're not going to be able to provide the level of service that the public is used to," Flanders said.
City commissioners will discuss the proposed budget cuts at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.