Steamed over SD&G changes to library hours

The following is an open letter from SD&G resident Cal Martin to the SD&G Library Board concerning hours at local branches:

Dear members of the SD&G Library Board,

I would like to express my profound disappointment in your decision to radically change the hours for three branches in the system. Yesterday, I was flabbergasted as I stood outside of the St. Andrews West branch and attempted to explain to children that their library branch was now closed on Saturdays – on the first day of Spring Break and with no warning whatsoever.

For myself, I had to wonder, how could a decision that important have been made that rapidly with no public consultation? I arrived at the branch on Saturday morning, and suddenly, with no warning, I could not pick up my holds nor drop off my items that were due. The decision was made Thursday evening, a notice went on Facebook at 3:57pm on Friday (preventing any patron from being able to speak to a real person about it), and the doors were locked for Saturday morning.

These changes may seem small to you, but they are radical changes to the three communities. Take St. Andrews West, for example. For anyone who works, or for any children that do not go to the school at that location, there are now only 2 hours per week (Thursday 5pm-7pm) to access the branch. If I am sick that day, have a late meeting, or am out of town on that single day, I lose my holds, and can’t access vital information and resources.

Many people were upset with the ill-conceived “winter hours,” but there were assurances that it was just a trial run, and that there was no intention of reducing hours or closing branches. But, now, it is much, much worse. People are really upset, and communities are mobilizing.

I would have thought that you would have learned at least one lesson from the Williamsburg debacle: that public consultation is essential. We are not stupid, we understand that there are challenges with budgets. But, we could have discussed solutions to issues of usage, promotion, hours, and access. But, instead, you simply locked the doors and angered everyone. It is a textbook example of how to screw up community engagement. And that engagement is in the first few words of the Library Mission.

I implore you to rescind the decision of March 10, and begin a proper process of public consultation to find solutions. You have a lot of work to do to build the trust with the community again.

Cal Martin