NEW PORT RICHEY — For eight years, Loni Kaplan has checked out books from Pasco County libraries to teach homeschooled students. Sometimes she needs them for two months at a time, like the book she checked out last month for an eight-week study on world geography.
That used to be no problem under the old policy of the Pasco libraries, which allowed people to check out a book for 28 days and renew it for 28 more.
But under a new policy launched Aug. 4, checkout time has been cut in half. Now patrons get books and other materials for 14 days, with a one-time renewal of 14 additional days.
"As a homeschooler, the library is our bread and butter," said Kaplan, 41.
"They (students) are not done with it (books) in two weeks. If they're interested in something, they might go a month at a time."
It turns out the passage of Amendment 1 in January delivered a $2.7-million hit to Pasco libraries. Libraries director Linda Allen said they faced a tough choice: close a branch or cut spending on new materials.
Library officials chose the latter.
Since the library system won't have money to buy books during the fiscal year that starts in October, officials shortened the checkout time so books get back on the shelves sooner, Allen said.
"We thought maybe we can use our resources better," Allen said. "We are hoping the impact is that more materials on the shelves mean more frequency for people to have them."
The policy is in effect on a trial basis until November, when officials will decide whether to make it permanent.
Allen said about 30 patrons have complained about the new policy. "This may not work, but we are testing it out to see," Allen said.
"If it turns out that this isn't accomplishing what we thought it would, we'll try something else."
Meanwhile, patrons like Kaplan, who homeschools her four children and teaches other kids, say they'll find new ways to keep books longer than 14 days. Kaplan said she and her family check out about 75 to 100 books per month.
"I'm utilizing Pinellas libraries much more now for those books I know I'll need long term," said Kaplan, noting Pinellas allows patrons to keep books for 28 days and renew for 28 more. "I'm using Pasco when I have to, but I'm more heavily using Pinellas."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.