SUGAR GROVE – Although it was quiet, the Sugar Grove Public Library was alive on the first Sunday of the year.
Books were spread out on tables, and a few clusters of patrons savored the opportunity to do something that hadn’t previously been possible: The library has, in the past, closed at 1 p.m. Saturdays and was closed Sundays and Mondays.
The ability to meet the availability needs of village residents has long been a complaint at the library. Expanded hours were launched this month, and although the turnout for the first Sunday wasn’t huge, those who were there said they were focused and productive.
Sugar Grove resident Suzanne Pepping said she enjoyed the chance to get work done on a weekend. As a teacher, she said it’s valuable to have weekend access to the library’s children’s section, and the computers there are quicker than what she has at home.
Resident Kathy Linneman said there have been many Sundays where she wanted to patron the library.
“That’s a long stretch to go when you want to come in and get a new book, or bring the kids in for something,” Linneman said. “... It’s nice that most days you can come.”
Director Carol Dolin arrived last summer as the library emerged from a period in which the previous director – Beverly Holmes Hughes – had been dismissed, and the Friends of the Library group disbanded. There were other issues too, including the closure of the library’s cafe, although resident Perry Clark said he intends to reopen it this year.
Pat Graceffa, who was president of the Friends of the Library, filed to run for the library board, but her petition was not certified. Her name will not appear on the ballot, but she intends to register as a write-in candidate.
The change in operation hours is because of an online survey the library conducted last year. The old hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, have been changed to 2 to 6 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The library is closed Fridays.
Dolin said the hour changes were possible by cutting services and stretching staff. She said the strong indication was that weekend hours were needed — something that didn’t surprise her because in every library she has known, “they move more people through on a Sunday in four hours than they do on a Tuesday in 12.”
That the first Sunday was quiet might be an indication the news hasn’t spread, she said.
“It may take a while to catch on,” Dolin said. “Sundays may not work in this community. We don’t know until we try it. And if it doesn’t work, if it’s not something that is attractive to this community, we’ll evaluate it in June … from the standpoint of, ‘Can we really afford to do this?’ and, ‘Is this working?’ ”
To accomplish it, she said staff would be stretched thin. A serious illness would hit hard, and more funds would be needed to operate the library. An attempt for a referendum would be necessary, she said.
Voters have rejected 10 consecutive referendum attempts. In the last try in 2010, there were more than twice as many no votes to yes votes.
Dolin said a referendum wouldn’t be attempted until there is an indication of what the public wants – and how much voters are willing to spend.
“One of the things that I said when I was hired was let’s find out what we can do with the budget we have first, talk to the public, find out what it they want from us – and why the referendum has failed in the past – and then maybe take a different approach,” she said.
Sugar Grove resident Michael Anson, who was in the first Sunday of the year, spoke of the referendum possibility. Anson has been involved in the library, starting a book and movie club where members read a book, watch a movie based on the book and discuss the book and the movie. He said expanding the hours was vital to the library’s cause.
“If the library ever wants to pass a referendum, it needs to be open more hours to serve its community,” he said, adding libraries are important to a town.
“A library reflects both the literacy of the community, as well as the value system of the community,” he said. “A community where intellectual curiosity and information and knowledge is valued is always a thriving community.”
In 2009, the library moved into its current space, a 25,500-square-foot-building on Municipal Drive that is more than four times the size of its previous building. Anson said groups such as his club would not have been possible at the old library.
Dolin said just by looking at the building, she can tell there is support for the library in the village.
“You don’t go into every community and find a library like this, a library building like this,” she said. “So that’s why I was confused. Why would you build such a lovely building and then not allow for enough funds to operate it?”