City Council Votes To Furlough Wichita Libraries

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Monday, December 28, 2010

Wichita leaders have voted to close the doors of the city's public libraries in a series of cost cutting measures.

The main library in Downtown Wichita and all of the branches will be closed on Friday of next week. All of the facilities will be closed on different Fridays throughout the year in hopes of saving thousands of dollars. As you can imagine, not everyone is happy with the decision.

The Wichita City Council on Tuesday voted to furlough Wichita Public Library employees four times in the coming year. The first furlough goes into effect Friday, January 7. The council was faced with a number of tough decisions. In the end, every department is making some sacrifices as a result of City Manager Bob Layton's 2011 overall budget.

"One approach would be to close the facilities a certain amount of time," said City Council member Jim Skelton. "We looked at some other options of layoffs or a permanent closure and this was probably the best 'worst' option."

Kathy Decker uses the library when she doesn't want to do her work at home. For her, it's easier to focus.

"The library is a great leveler for all socioeconomic groups," Decker explained. "People who have nothing can come to the library and get something and begin to dig themselves out and it seems harsh to hit that group in that way."

On this Tuesday between Christmas and New Year's, the downtown library was full of people. As an educator herself, Decker believes there are better ways to save money.

"I understand why there are concerns," Decker said. "I'm just concerned that the library is kind of the foundation of being able to give people who have nothing a chance."

Skelton said the decision wasn't easy, but everyone was asked to take a hit in 2011.

"Every department has a smaller budget this year. The amount of supplies they can get, for example. People are being asked to do things differently and I think that's good," Skelton said.

Of course, the library isn't the only area of the city budget that has been hit. Last week, the city council also voted to reorganize the parks and recreation department. Part of that reorganization included a permanent closure of the Osage Rec Center. That will save almost a million dollars. Skelton says the council will also curb the purchase of new vehicles in 2011 and look at possibly privatizing custodial work at City Hall to save even more money.

The library furloughs will save a total of about $80,000 over the course of next year.

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