Please don't close library branch
Unfortunately, Clearwater is facing financial hardship much like other cities and the families that live there. Because my family and I visit the East Branch Library in Clearwater at least twice a week, we were deeply concerned when the idea of closing it came up.
The problem is meeting the public's desire to have this resource available without an increase in "quality of life" spending. Our family has already noticed several changes in the hours of operation at this particular facility, with it closed Sunday and Monday and open until 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The East Branch on Drew Street is in a favorable location for my family, among other reasons why we don't want to see it close. This is the place where my daughter first learned to read and was proud to have her very own library card, where I borrowed books instead of paying high prices at the bookstore, and where my husband's grandmother received help completing her tax forms.
I just wonder how those other people who crowd the library would feel if this resource was no longer available to them. It is safe to say that my family is not the only one that is concerned with the prospect of the library closing. Most times the library is already crowded, and there is a wait for a computer, so this topic concerns these members of our community, too.
When it comes time later this year to make a decision, I sincerely hope that the East Branch Library remains in operation.
Amy Calabrese, Clearwater
Re: Roundabout library procedure is baffling letter, March 29
Library system has many benefits
The Largo Public Library participates in the Pinellas Automation Library System, a database that brings together the collections of the member libraries of the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative.
PALS allows library card holders to search for titles, place holds, check out materials and monitor their accounts. The database allows countywide resource sharing and behind the scenes is used by staff for the acquisition and cataloging of library materials, inventory control, check in, routing materials throughout the county and automating patron notice delivery through e-mail and telephone.
Before PALS was launched last year, many of the city libraries had their own automation systems that didn't allow seamless use of catalogs. Patrons had to register their library cards in each system and needed to search individual databases to find the titles they were looking for. Staff duties were also complicated by multiple systems.
A countywide automation system was seen as a service enhancement as well as a cost savings in staff resources and shared pricing. The Largo Public Library reduced its annual automation costs significantly by joining PALS. These savings were needed in a time of severe budget cuts that resulted in the reduction of staff and a loss of public service hours.
Since the introduction of PALS, most of the libraries have seen an increase in checkout. Nationally, libraries are busier than ever due to the economic downturn, and PPLC libraries are feeling the effect of this too. Automated functions, such as telephone and e-mail notices, online and telephone renewals, and self checkout are cost-saving methods that allow staff to work more efficiently and continue to provide service despite budget reductions.
The telephone notification system is an integrated part of the automation system and is a very small percentage of the cost. The system processes thousands of calls per day, so utilizing staff time for this function would actually cost the library much more than the price of the software. Patrons receive notice calls from out of state because the automation software company is based in New York, and having the system hosted there is a cost savings. The libraries do not incur any long-distance charges for this service.
Overall, the majority of people using PALS, especially those who remember the limitations of previous systems, have responded positively to the choices and services available to them now.
Casey McPhee, director,
Largo Public Library