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Library braces for year ahead

Del Norte County Library District budget line item highlights:

$134,000

Income from property tax

$157,200

Expense for staff salaries, benefits

$16,800

Income from state library grants

$7,600

Expense for book purchases

$4,600

Income from timber tax

$5,000

Expense for utilities

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

Robert Burke locked his bike Thursday morning outside the Del Norte County Library and wandered in to look for travel magazines.

But he discovered that library workers and volunteers had opened the doors only to clean. The library wouldn't open to the public until 1 p.m.

"Kind of crazy hours, I think," Burke said, turning back to unlock his bike. "It's kind of a bummer, cause I'm an early bird."

But the library's limited hours — it's open 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays — likely will not change soon.

The district's board of trustees approved a nearly $206,000 budget for fiscal year 2006-2007 at a Thursday meeting.

"Right now, we're just doing the minimum service," said library director Patty Hector.

The library remains understaffed and volunteers run the Smith River branch. The district closed its Klamath branch this summer, since volunteers could not continue to consistently run it.

"We just can't pay the bills," Hector said.

She has cut back on magazine orders and book purchases and had planned to stop the Wall Street Journal subscription until a contributor picked up that bill.

Most of the budget will go toward staff salaries, insurance costs and running a computer circulation system to track materials.

But people routinely ask for more hours, materials and services, Hector said. The Crescent City site checks about about 5,000 books each month.

"Anytime we get new books out there, they just fly off the shelves, because that's what people are waiting for," Hector said.

Library supporters tried to pass a measure that would have provided the district with about $400,000 in sales tax money — the best option for a stable revenue source, Hector said. But the ballot measure was narrowly defeated at the polls in June.

The library's best fundraising option now lies in starting an annual drive through letters to supporters, Hector told the board.

Earlier Thursday in a back room at the downtown library, volunteers Erika Church of Smith River and Judy Wilson of Gasquet covered books with protective paper.

"They need somebody to do the work," Church said.

Most of the volunteers are retirees who want local libraries to continue running, Wilson said.

"Without volunteers, it wouldn't be open," Wilson said.

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