Today’s news:

BPL Sunday shut down-Economic crunch forces controversial cutbacks

Count out Sunday as your day to check out the library.

Starting Jan. 4, all branches of the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), including the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, will be closing operation on Sundays.

Officials from BPL released a statement shortly before Christmas explaining that they made the decision to terminate Sunday service in order to save money after actual and proposed reductions in city and state funding to the library system. Sunday service will be eliminated at the Central Library and at neighborhood branches in Borough Park, Flatbush, Kensington, McKinley Park and Midwood (other neighborhood branches were already closed on Sundays).

“Eliminating Sunday service is not a decision that we made lightly, but cutting back these hours will immediately save BPL money and allow us to still maintain six-day service at every library in Brooklyn,” said BPL Executive Director Dionne Mack-Harvin. “We will do everything we can in this economy to keep our doors open to the public, especially as more and more Brooklynites are turning to their neighborhood libraries to find jobs, learn computer skills, borrow books and DVDs, and attend our free programs.”

According to a spokesperson with BPL, librarians and other library staff would not be losing their jobs as the system scales back on its weekend service. The spokesperson did not grant this newspaper permission to speak with librarians at the branches closing on Sundays and librarians who were approached referred all press inquires to BPL’s marketing and communications division.

Marketing and Communications Associate Malika L. Granville said that the library would be saving about $800,000 by not operating on Sundays.

“Sunday is the most expensive day we operate our branches because we pay people overtime,” Granville said. “We are doing this in an effort to cut costs while saving jobs and providing service for the other six days.”

Not all branches in the BPL system are affected by the announcement, as many are already closed during Sundays, though hours for some branches have increased or decreased over the past year depending on budgetary concerns and staffing availability. Programs that have been scheduled on Sundays into 2009 at branches with existing Sunday service would be moved to another day, though Granville said that there were a limited number of programs scheduled on Sunday.

Brooklyn Public Library staff have received some resistance from community members regarding the closures, particularly from residents in significantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods such as Borough Park and Midwood. Assemblyman Dov Hikind questioned the library’s decision and urged the Brooklyn Public Library to close branches in those neighborhoods on Saturdays instead.

“Once upon a time, the customer was always right,” Hikind said. “Today, the customer is apparently just plain irrelevant. No one disagrees that difficult choices have to be made in light of the current economic situation, but significant agency operating decisions need to be made in concert with the needs of the patrons.”

Granville said her office has heard from residents of a number of communities affected by the closings, and that library officials had received responses from the Orthodox community.

“As of right now, we are not sure of what we will do, but if we do, we will definitely notify the community,” said Granville.

The Brooklyn Public Library, the fifth largest library system in the United States, is an independent library system that serves 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn.

For more information about the library and its hours, visit www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org.

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