The public outcry that followed the April 2010 decision that all but two Houston library branches would be closed on Saturdays has paid off — sort of. As part of the 2012 budget, Houston Public Library will restore Saturday hours to 16 branches, including Hipstrict haunts Freed-Montrose, Heights and Meyer.
But the budget also slashes $5 million from the 2011 version, causing 38 employee layoffs, smaller funds for collection purchases and overall reduced hours. Despite the Saturday reawakening, there's still a 13 to 16 percent cut in hours will still impact citizens' free access to information.
"We originally deemed it important to keep all libraries open Monday through Friday for after school activities, and closed on Saturday," Sandra Fernandez of HPL tells CultureMap. "We got a lot of customer feedback. A year and a half later, we've decided to retool certain locations' Saturday hours."
Ironically, library usage has skyrocketed since the onset of the Great Recession.
For example, the Freed-Montrose branch will now be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, but is now closed on Monday. The Friday closing time of 8 p.m. has been lowered to 5 p.m. — so you can forget about your T.G.I.F. post-work jaunts to the stacks. Open hours fluctuate between days across the map, so check the HPL website once the new schedule goes into effect Aug. 8.
The new $32.4 million budget includes other surprises, such as the extension of the Central Branch's Sunday closure through the end of the year, as well as a reduction in half of the hours at Discovery Green's petite booklending operation.
"The system's new hours are going to remain until we have the resources to restore the original schedule," Fernandez says. Ironically, library usage has skyrocketed since the onset of the Great Recession.
"In a down economy, usage always goes up," Fernandez says. "These are hard choices to make."