Wednesday, August 22, 2007

St. Paul / City will keep all its libraries open

St. Paul / City will keep all its libraries open
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 08/22/2007 12:30:22 AM CDT

The lights will stay on at all 13 of St. Paul's public libraries, but expect some cutbacks.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman laid out his 2008 library budget Tuesday at the Rondo Community Outreach branch of the public library system. He expects the city to spend about $18.6 million on library services next year, down from $19 million this year.

"There was a lot of speculation that branches might close," Coleman conceded. "We have to restructure. We have to live within our means. But libraries are so critical to our community that we can't close them."

There were no surprises in his library budget - he'd averted feared closings in last week's overall city budget address - but there were some newly grim realities in the 2008 financial plan he and his staff are putting to the City Council, acting as the city's library board.

The Hayden Heights and Hamline Midway branches will close on Mondays, leaving them open just five days a week. Capitol improvements will be cut by $488,009, and seven full-time positions will be trimmed.

Some resources will be shifted - to new Sunday hours for Rice Street and Merriam Park, for example - and the Hayden Heights and Midway branches will get some new furniture and sprucing up, but Coleman didn't really offer any consolations.

"This is tough," he said. "We're in a really difficult budget time. ... We do have to choose."

The city is facing a $17 million budget shortfall and Coleman floated a 14.6 percent property tax hike last week...

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