Library patrons in the District may have to go farther when they want to use a library this fall, because of a cutback in neighborhood branch hours. But four newly designated regional libraries will lengthen their hours in an attempt to ease the effect of the cutback.
Library Director Hardy Franklin said the cutbacks in the neighborhoods coupled with the regional branches was designed to "improve the quality of service, minimize the reduction in hours, and maintain equal quality throughout the system."
Franklin cited budget problems as the cause of the cutbacks, even though his $8.7 million budget is expected to be increased by approximately $50,000. He said he was faced with the alternatives of laying off staff or absorbing personnel budget cuts through the change in hours.
In the past, all branches libraries have been open 48 hours a week except during the summer. Under the new plan, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, 16 branches will open only 40 hours a week, while the four "regional libraries" will open 64 hours a week.
The plan effectively deprives most neighborhood branches of one week-day of operation a week, but compensates by giving each region of the city a branch with the same hours as the main Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G St. NW.
Neighborhood branches have been open six days a week, eight hours daily, including two week days when they operate from 1 to 9 p.m. Beginning in October, they will close for one week day, but retain two late week days. The regional libraries, like the King library, will stay open from 9 to 9 Monday through Thursday. All libraries will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 to 5:30 p.m. and will be closed on Sunday.
Franklin said the regional libraries were selected based on the size of the collections and building, the availibility of public transportation, and their geographic location. He said it was difficult to find good locations because of mass transit routes and physical barriers in the District.
The new plan represents a cutback in library service from 960 hours of service a week to 896 hours a week. Franklin said he expected some criticism, but hoped many citizens would be happy with regional branches near them open as much as the main library. Also, he said the expanded Metro system would make the main library, which is near the Gallery Place Metro station, more accessible to citizens.
Some of the regional libraries will be a long trek for citizens who find their neighborhoods branches closed when they want to use them. For instance, patrons of the library' s two branches in Southwest Washington will be expected to go to the Fort Davis branch, a few blocks from the Prince George's County line, when their branches are closed.
Also, those who now use the Mt. Pleasant branch at 16th and Lamont NW or the Palisades branches at 49th and V streets NW will have to go to the Georgetown branch, one of the regional libraries, at Wisconsin and R streets NW, when their local branches are not open.
The other two regional baraches will be Chevy Chase and Woodridge. The regional libraries and the neighborhood branches whose areas they will serve are as following:
Chevy Chase regional branch, Connecticut Avenue near McKinley Street Service area includes Cleveland Park branch, Connecticut Avenue near Macomb Street; Tenley Park branch, Wisconsin Avenue and ALbemarle Street NW; Takoma Park branch, 5th and Cedar Streets NW, and Petworth branch, Georgia Avenue and Upshure Street NW.
Georgetown regional branch. Service area includes Palisades branch; West End branch; 24th and L Streets NW; Watha T. Daniel branch, 8th Street and Rhode Island Aveune NW, and Mt. Pleasant branch.
Woodridge regional branch, Rhode Island Avenue and 18th Street NE. Service area includes Benning branch, Benning Road near Minnesota Avenue NE; Capitol View branch, Central Avenue and 50th Street SE; Northeast branch, Maryland Avenue and 7th Street NE, and Southeast branch, 7th and D Streets SE.
Fort Davis regional branch, Alabama Avenue and 37th Street SE. Service area includes Anacostia branch, Good Hope Road and 18th Street SE; Southwest branch, Wesley Place and K Branch; Washington Highlands branch, Atlantic Street and South Capitol Terrace SW.