PALM HARBOR — The East Lake Community Library will temporarily cut its operating hours beginning July 1 in an effort to reduce expenses and cope with a smaller staff.
On Wednesday, library director Patricia Perez requested approval for the change at the regular monthly meeting of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, which oversees the East Lake Community Library, the Palm Harbor Library and the Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation Department.
"We thought long and hard on how to make the least impact on the public,'' Perez said after the meeting.
Under the new schedule, the library will close at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. on Monday and at 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Hours will stay the same on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. The library is closed Sundays.
"Initially, we were looking at cutting back from 52 to 40 hours a week, but this way, it will be 52 to 47 hours,'' she said.
In the last three years, Perez has seen her full-time staff shrink from 11 to eight, and although the reduction in hours is being called temporary, it could become permanent, she said.
"We are hoping we can restore the hours, pending an increase in funding for the fiscal year of 2013,'' Perez said.
The East Lake Community Library Advisory Board, a group of East Lake residents that works with Perez on administrative concerns, will re-examine the issue in September.
At the meeting, the PHCSA board also approved another request for the East Lake library to close for two additional days this year.
Deborah Clark, Pinellas County supervisor of elections, alerted Perez that the East Lake Library was needed as a polling place for the Aug. 14 Republican primary and the Nov. 6 general election.
The approximately 3,330 registered voters in the area previously used Life Path Church on East Lake Road, but the church is no longer available.
Perez said the library would need to close those two days in order to move voters smoothly through the facility and parking lot.
"I talked about staying open (on voting day) with my advisory board, and we just feel it will be entirely too congested,'' she said.
PHCSA approved that request, too.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.