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Extra hours proposed for library

Do-it-yourselfers and students who put off research papers until the last hours of the weekend might want to jump on this proposal by city Commissioner Bob Jackson.

Jackson wants the city library to stay open until 9 p.m. weekdays and open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Current library hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The library is closed Sundays.

"This is not the first time I've asked about this," Jackson said Tuesday. "This time, I intend to pursue it."

He said that giving people the extra hour at night is a small concession the city should make. As for Sundays: "It would be nice to spend a couple of hours in the library and then walk out the door and spend some time in Largo Central Park.

"I think we ought to try it for a couple of years," Jackson said.

Library Director Barbara Murphey said she is ready to accommodate Jackson's request as long as she has an adequate number of workers. Some additional personnel hours would have to be approved, Murphey said.

"I've been wanting to do this for five or six years," Murphey said.

Kathy Dort, library services manager, investigated extending library hours after Jackson suggested it at a recent commission meeting. According to her report to City Manager Steven Stanton, it would cost $37,532.32 to keep the library open eight additional hours each week. That includes money for hiring another library assistant, Dort said.

If the library is open an additional eight hours each week, Dort recommended that all primary services, including the circulation of videos, be available during the extended hours.

Murphey said a survey of library patrons a year ago indicated many would like to keep the library open an additional hour each weekday.

"I know that would go," she said. "We have to run people out every night."

Also, she said, people who can only use the library on weekends would probably prefer Sunday to Saturday since many activities in Largo Central Park take place on Saturday making parking a problem for library patrons.

Other libraries have experimented with Sunday hours.

Arleta Hallam, director of the Clearwater Library, said it was tried there from February through May of 1995.

"We found we just didn't have the customers," Hallam said. "There were times (staff members) were just standing around looking at each other."

But in Pinellas Park, Sunday hours have been successful for two years.

Assistant library director Tom Simpson said some Sundays are extremely busy "with kids panicking about an assignment due the next day and people stopping by for leisurely reading."

Largo Mayor Thomas "Thom" Feaster said he expects Jackson to bring the issue up during budget sessions next month.

"Fortunately, the library is one of the attractions in our city," Feaster said. "If we can fit it into our budget, I don't see why we shouldn't do it."

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