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One of the most popular alternatives to shuttering seven libraries offered at Wednesday’s City Council hearing on Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed budget cuts was to keep all libraries open, but reduce library hours.

This alternative, echoed by several of the more than 50 city residents who showed up to the all-day hearing, was first brought up by Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin in her review of the proposed cuts.

Sanders’s proposal calls for cutting 10 percent ($1.7 million) out of the library system’s budget, and achieving the cuts by closing down libraries in seven of the city’s eight City Council districts.

In her review of Sanders’ proposal, Tevlin said the same amount of money could be saved if 7.5 hours were cut out of every library’s weekly schedule. She also suggested cutting individual branch budgets on a sliding scale.

City Library Director Deborah Barrow said that while it doesn’t seem like much, cutting 7.5 hours would be a logistical nightmare. She said because city libraries currently operate on a 41-hour schedule, cutting 7.5 hours would throw the schedules of full and part-time librarians into disarray. It would also force all libraries to have hours that would be inconvenient for the public, she said.

“It is not a practical thing to do,” Barrow said. “You want people there who can serve the public. It is not as simple as it sounds.”

Barrow also said that adding more volunteers, another popular suggestion, is not as easy as it sounds. “We have wonderful volunteers,” she said. “[But] a volunteer is a volunteer. Most don’t make the commitment equal to a full-time or half-time job.”

I’m going to be going through a number of the proposals that have been floated as alternatives to the mayor’s cuts. Do you have any specific suggestions? Send me an e-mail at david.washburn@voiceofsandiego.org.

DAVID WASHBURN

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