Residents Protest Library Hour Cuts
Huntington Public Library Director Michael Bogin in his 2013-2014 budget authored a new chapter for the public space by cutting Friday night hours from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. But residents who look to use the library Friday nights, the only convenient time following a demanding work week, they say, attacked Bogin in a public forum last week and are circulating a petition hoping to overturn the director’s decision.
According to Bogin, named library director last year, a usage study revealed that an average of 27 people utilize the library space from 6-9 p.m. on Friday nights. Closing at 6 p.m. instead saves the library $41,600 this year.
However Huntington residents Patricia McKenna-Bausch and Jasmine LoFaro, who both strongly oppose the cutback, said the usage analysis was conducted by Bogin himself and questioned the director’s findings. The pair also said in separate interviews that Bogin has yet to produce a copy of the survey.
“He has yet to show us the survey; he says he doesn’t have it—that’s because he didn’t do it,” LoFaro said.
McKenna-Bausch said she and roughly 25 other residents attended the library’s Meet the Director forum Oct. 22, an event Bogin had hoped would draw community support rather than resistance. The majority of the more than two dozen residents there lambasted the reduced hours rather than praise Bogin, who hoped the meeting would take a different direction in light of new technology and services the library implemented this year.
Residents have launched a petition urging the director and board of trustees to reinstate the Friday evening hours. They had collected more than 50 signatures as of last week.
McKenna-Bausch said tensions at the meeting were high. The event, originally scheduled to run for an hour and a half, turned into a two-and-a-half-hour back and forth, residents who attended the forum said.
“When you’ve got evening hours all week, and on Fridays you have working families for whom it would be better [to use] with their kids, to come in and get a movie or use the space, we feel it’s a disservice. It might represent a small amount of time which they say is underutilized, but it is utilized by a certain group,” McKenna-Bausch said.
The frustrated resident also slammed Bogin and the library board of trustees for commissioning a graphic designer to issue a 16-page color print, bimonthly newsletter mailed to residents that features Bogin on the cover and is more expensive than having the pamphlet made in-house, she said.
“He’s touting his personal achievements; putting him on the front of the newsletter,” McKenna-Bausch said. “When you’re a nonprofit, begging or hurting for money… Don’t send out a full-color letter.”
LoFaro said she was also infuriated by how the budget affects library operations on Sunday. In past years, the library closed on Sundays after Father’s Day in June and reopened in September. Under Bogin’s administration, LoFaro said, the library this year closed earlier in May and only reopened in October, affecting handfuls of students who rely on the public space to study and prepare for exams.
Bogin defended the library’s decision to cut hours, citing that this year’s $169,858 budget was strapped because of the state’s tax levy cap. Next year, Bogin said, the library will be faced with greater financial challenges due to mandates from the state.
“Unfortunately we’re dealing with limited resources. It wasn’t cost effective. These are hard-pressing decisions we have to make under a new financial reality and we have to make sure the public receives the best service they can with the most efficient use of money,” Bogin said.
The library director described the evening as cacophony of positives and negatives. On one hand, Bogin said, it was encouraging to see so many people turn out on a weeknight to defend and discuss their public library; on the other hand, he was disheartened by the tone of the feedback.
“It didn’t go in the direction I hoped for but it’s clear we have some passionate library lovers… It’s great that they care so much,” Bogin said. “We made a decision that a far more valuable use would be to turn it [money] back to programs and materials that in the past we had to reduce. We realized we couldn’t do that again. It really hurt, but then you don’t have the money to spend on programs, books and materials.”
The next director’s forum, Bogin said, will be used as a forum for positive, productive feedback about changes at the library.