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Jacksonville, FL (January 15, 2019) – The Jacksonville Public Library is starting off the New Year with new extended hours. Jacksonville Public Library Director Tim Rogers made the announcement in an email and explained the new hours of operations will “extend service at nine branches and ensure that all libraries will be open at least six days per week.”

The new hours won’t begin until March 2nd, but Councilman Becton said “this change has been a long time coming.”

“The library services within Jacksonville were severely cut during the budgets of the late 2000 because of the down turn in the economy”, Councilman Becton explained. “As a result, our library system hours and services have not been restored with growing budgets and an economy that has improved.” Councilman Becton added. “It’s well past the time that we need to address these issues and make our libraries more available to residents on a full-time basis”.

The Southeast Regional Library in District 11 is located off Deerwood Park Blvd near the St. Johns Town Center and is one of the highest volume facilities on a regular basis. In the Public Library’s September 2018 Usage Report, the Southeast Regional location is one of the busiest libraries with year-to-date customer counts of 282,915, second only behind the Main Downtown Library at 535,012 visitors and ahead of Pablo Creek at 258,642.

Councilman Becton said the initial request for consideration of these extended hours was made during the 2018-19 budget discussions back in July. CM Becton asked Director Rogers to provide a proposal for adding three additional hours each week to the Southeast Regional Library on Wednesdays to enable the facility to remain open past 6 p.m., like the other weekdays. While the full council ultimately decided not to approve this proposal, Director Rogers, promised Councilman Becton that he would work within his current resources and figure out how to make the extra hours happen.

In that August 2018-19 budget process, the Jacksonville Public Library did approach City Council with a request to enhance its budget but for other priorities. However, the priorities for the additional funding would only to add hours to the non-regional libraries, despite the fact that the regional libraries are the busiest in the city.

“It has been a priority of mine that the regional libraries be open each night of the week until 9 p.m.,” Councilman Becton explained. “Residents beyond the normal uses of the library need access to the community rooms for community meetings on a regular basis during the week.” Councilman Becton noted. “Therefore, in working with Library Director Tim Rogers, this outcome became possible by a reallocation of resources and the result is our busiest libraries will serve more needs of the community every night of the week”.

Other factual information was provided in the Jacksonville Public Library’s August White Paper, “The Southeast Regional Library ranks third for the most cardholders, with 64,000 and lends more material out to users than the Main Library”, the report noted. “It’s is also the busiest location in the evenings, whereby in 2017, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., it averaged more visitors than all other libraries; from 6 p.m. to 9 pm, it had the highest circulation. With an average of 103 items loaned from 8 p.m. to 9 pm last year, it was the only branch averaging more 80 items in that hour.”

“This issue first got my attention when looking at the libraries schedule each week and for months in advance, all meeting rooms were reserved,” Councilman Becton added. “As I looked at Wednesday nights, which were closed, this void provided a glaring opportunity to solve a relatively easy problem.”

During those budget meetings of 2018-19, Councilman Becton advocated that the left-over money within the budget, totaling $877,000, partially should go towards solving this problem.

Rogers explained in his email, “through some creative scheduling on the part of our managers and in response to the requests made by members of City Council (and aligning with the mayor’s priorities), the Board of Library Trustees also added 12 more hours to the schedules of our four large regional libraries: Webb Wesconnett, Highlands, Pablo Creek and Southeast. The added hours will enable the regional libraries to be open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., giving library customers much more access to the collection, meeting and study spaces, and technology and of course the learning experiences of all varieties made available through the Library every day.” Rogers added that the additional 12 hours would not require an increase to the libraries’ overall staffing numbers.

The new schedule was approved by the Board of Library Trustees at its December 20th meeting.

As for closing the non-regional branches an hour early, at 8:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 p.m., Rogers said “when we looked at the data, we saw that the noon to 1:00 p.m. time period was simply busier than the 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. period. While we would love to be open until 9 p.m. at all locations, we felt that serving more people with the resources provided by the City was a better choice.” He said they opened up all branches on Monday and Tuesday nights due to the data as well, which showed these two days as the busiest, and “we want to ensure that we are serving people who visit the library — not potential customers who might visit.”