By Aleasha Sandley, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON - Bookmobile service to local schools will be eliminated and hours at both the Anderson Public Library's Anderson and Lapel branches will be shortened in an effort to balance the library's 2010 budget.

The library's Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted unanimously for the service reductions, which should save the $256,369 revenue shortfall for the library in 2010, according to the board's budget committee. The estimated shortfall is a result of statewide property tax caps, which are leaving taxing entities with less revenue that in years past.

The Bookmobile will operate through December before being eliminated, saving the library about $75,000, said budget committee Chairman Paul Muething.

Hours at the Anderson branch of the library will be reduced from 69 hours a week to 58 hours a week starting Nov. 2. New hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Hours at the Lapel branch will be reduced from 56 hours a week to 30 hours a week, and hours of operation will be left up to the library director.

"I think we ought to leave it up to management to be able to adjust these hours as they see business and so on," said board member Duane Hoak. "I would like for management to have some flexibility in how those hours are implemented."

Library Director Sarah Later originally recommended the Lapel branch hours be set to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and the library to be closed Friday through Sunday. The hours would allow students to use the library after school and give time for library staff to read to preschoolers on Monday and Tuesday mornings, Later said.

"We tried to adopt a plan that would give us some stability and some continuity in the knowledge the library has in its people," Muething said. "Also, we wanted to keep an adequate level of service in Lapel."

Muething did not know the exact dollar amount cutting hours at the libraries would save, but said he was confident it would make up for the expected budget shortfall.

The Bookmobile's elimination comes after letters from students were delivered to the library board Tuesday asking the board to maintain the Bookmobile. Later said she would like to keep some level of service to schools, but it would depend on staffing levels at the library.

"This is all finding people who already have jobs here and asking them to do more," she said. "We haven't figured out how we're going to provide all the services. It's going to be tricky, but we will figure it out and we will make it happen, but we're all going to be asked to do more."

Although the board passed the 2010 budget Tuesday, which totals $3,887,049, Later said more cuts, including possible layoffs and pay cuts, would be needed to balance future budgets. The 2009 budget is about $5.2 million, and the full extent of the tax caps won't take effect until 2011.

Since the tax caps first took effect, the library board has cut 12 part-time and eight full-time positions through attrition to get to its current total of 88 employees. Other measures taken have been a hiring freeze for the past two years, reduced magazine and newspaper subscriptions, changes in heating and cooling procedures for the library facilities, dropping of long-term disability insurance for employees and a 50 percent reduction in online databases. Employees won't receive cost-of-living raises in next year's budget.

"We've been working on the shortfall for a long time," Later said. "The staff have been wonderful. Everyone's very aware of where our money comes from. We're also very aware of how needed we are in the community.

"We do this with heavy hearts."

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