LIBRARY EXPANDS HOURS: Now open at 10:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays:

“You have just made my day, if not my year.  THANK YOU ALL…I am so happy you are doing this.  I will increase our donations to the Friends.  Wonderful.” This quote is just one example of the excited reactions we’ve received since the new library hours were announced two weeks ago. Many library users have discovered the new hours by accident when coming to return books on a Friday or Saturday morning and finding the building open for services. “You’re open!” was heard over and over again the first two mornings of the new hours.

In June of 2010, due to staffing reductions, the St. Helena Public Library shortened its operational hours from 52 a week to 49. Although it was not a large drop and the new schedule was simple and easy to remember, the change had a noticeable effect on services. In spring and summer of 2011 the library conducted a study dubbed the “Visioning Project” in which the community was surveyed to determine how the library could best serve the evolving needs of residents. Many fantastic and achievable ideas rose to the surface including services to the Spanish-speaking community and additional offerings for teens. For the last six months, we have been working to launch and establish services to meet these needs. However, one element that had not yet been addressed was the community’s request for additional library hours, specifically morning hours.

Many users cited traffic as being a hindrance to library use on Friday and Saturday afternoons, saying they preferred to run “in town” errands before the afternoon sightseers and shoppers crowd the roads and sidewalks. Mornings also tend to be more convenient for those with small children who nap in the afternoon hours, people trying to beat the heat, seniors, and, well, all those “morning people.”

The new hours, which began with the new fiscal year, the first of July, raise our total weekly service hours to 57. Many people may wonder how the library is able to continue to expand its hours and extend its services while other City departments are making cuts. The truth is that the library has also suffered budget cuts and expects additional reductions over the next two years as funds previously provided for library services by the State are exhausted. Libraries have been champions of doing “more with less” for decades, and when that can be achieved without sacrificing quality, the St. Helena Public Library does exactly that. But looking at a 10 percent reduction in funds from the City and an additional 17 percent hit to the operational budget coming down the pipeline, due to the elimination of all State funding, the library has a new mantra: now we are working to do “differently with less.” In the last six months, library processes have been streamlined and staff has been cross-trained and retrained. Over 50 percent of library staff is doing different work than they were a year ago today. Redundancies and unnecessary processes have been eliminated, schedules have been changed, and new skills have been learned. With the help and cooperation of library personnel, the library is now able to provide 16 percent more operational hours and 80 percent more programs than a year ago, despite a reduced bottom line.

The new schedule is very easy to remember: Sunday and Monday 2:00 to 6:00 pm; Tuesday through Thursday 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. St. Helena’s is still the only library in Napa County with Sunday hours. The extended hours, which were approved by City Council at their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 26th, will be implemented on a trial basis to be evaluated in January to determine if they are sustainable. We hope that the hours will enable users to come into town ahead of traffic on busy days of the week, visit the Farmer’s Market and the library in the same trip, and generally contribute to making life in St. Helena a little more convenient.