Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 2, 2012

IMCPL to restore some of its hours

By Wade Coggeshall
Hendricks County Flyer

— After enduring severe budget cuts, Indianapolis Marion County Public libraries are restoring many of the service hours they had to cut in 2010.

Beginning May 13, weekly service hours will increase from 980 to 1,247. Each branch will be open at least six days a week, as well as every Friday and Saturday. Some libraries, including the Wayne Township branch, will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The Central Library will once again be open on Thursdays.

The change comes after the City-County Council approved transferring most of IMCPL's debt obligations from its operating fund to its debt service fund. In addition, they also sent about $149,000 in county option income taxes to the library system.

Jackie Nytes, IMCPL's CEO, says the move frees many resources in their operating fund.

"It allows us to be stable for the next five or six years easily, and know we can do what we're already doing," she said. "Then we have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how to meet the next set of demands."

Indeed, requests for some of IMCPL's services increased dramatically following the economic collapse in 2009. But property tax reforms and reduced revenues in 2010 forced the organization to reduce its service hours by 26 percent, as well as cut some positions and employee benefits.

"It was looking scary with the property tax caps," Nytes said.

It was so bad that at one point IMCPL considered closing some of its 23 locations. They studied the branches with the least amount of use.

"That hit a bunch of neighborhoods pretty hard," Nytes said. "They're older neighborhoods in challenged parts of the city. While their libraries aren't hugely trafficked, they're critical to the neighborhoods."

A couple of residents formed the Sustainable Libraries Coalition to prevent any closures. The public outcry was enough to convince the city-county council to take action.

"They were really the ones who orchestrated (the public response)," Nytes said. "It was pretty grassroots."

With the new schedule (still a net 6 percent reduction in hours compared to pre-2010 service levels), IMCPL can offer more public service programs like the job centers they have in eight locations. In conjunction with WorkForce One, the program allows library users free Internet access to apply for jobs and create resumes.

"So many of the people who are unemployed don't have access to that. That's been a very noticeable area of growth for us," said Nytes, who noted that demand for computer skills classes has also been high.

With the new schedule, all Indianapolis libraries will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information, visit the website at imcpl.org.

wade.coggeshall@flyergroup.com