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Largo library should be open on Sunday

What better way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon than browsing through the aisles of an air-conditioned library or checking out a video?

Largo City Commissioner Bob Jackson is pushing a plan to open the city library on Sunday afternoons. Fellow commissioners should make every effort to make that plan a reality during their budget discussions next month.

Jackson is renewing his effort to open the library from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. He also wants to keep the library open until 9 weeknights. The library is now open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

There is no question the library should remain open later on weeknights. It is difficult to arrive home from work, eat dinner, make it to the library and finish your reading or research by 8 p.m. Library officials say they routinely have to ask people to leave at closing time.

The book on Sunday hours for public libraries offers no clear message. The Clearwater Library tried it for several months last year and did not attract enough customers. The Pinellas Park Library has been open Sundays for two years and is very busy.

Nationwide, Sunday hours for libraries are common. An informal survey by the American Library Association several years ago found 56 of the 60 libraries contacted were open seven days a week. Libraries in Chicago and San Francisco are among those that have started opening on Sunday within the past year.

As Jackson observes, the Largo Library's location at Largo Central Park could help it generate more Sunday business than other libraries. An open library would give families looking for an inexpensive outing another reason to come downtown, stroll through the park, enjoy the playground and the fountains _ and check out some books.

Of course, keeping the library open will cost money. The city estimates keeping it open eight more hours a week would cost more than $37,000. But governments always should be looking for opportunities to get more use out of their facilities, whether they are libraries, parks, cultural arts centers or convention centers.

Making it more convenient to use the library is one small way Largo commissioners could improve the quality of life for many residents at a modest cost.