New hours and days set for Ledyard libraries

Ledyard — Forced to make budget cuts, the town has announced new hours of operation for the Bill and Gales Ferry libraries.

Effective Dec. 3, Bill Library will be open 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Gales Ferry Library will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

"We have come a long way [since] the proposal of closing Gales Ferry. There was four or five different compromise steps that we've taken along the way," Mayor Fred Allyn III said. He added, "I'm very, very confident in our schedule right now."

Less confident are library officials.

"We have people that come in here every day to go on the computer, read the newspaper, and they're not going to drive to the other library," said library director Gale Bradbury, adding, "It's like a community living room to them."

On Oct. 16, Allyn announced that he would indefinitely close Gales Ferry Library at the end of October. Following pushback from the Gales Ferry District, the mayor said he would allow both libraries to stay open, with reduced hours and staff.

He asked Bradbury to come back with a plan that realizes $115,000 to $120,000 in savings. The library director said she came back with a plan that kept both libraries open Monday-Saturday but with shorter hours, yielding savings of $102,000.

Allyn was not satisfied with this and came back with what will be the new schedule. The cut is now about $118,000, or more than 20 percent of the libraries' budget.

Bradbury said she is keeping two part-time employees for the week and four for Sunday; each Sunday employee will work every other weekend. But she is laying off 10 part-time library assistants and three high school pages, she said.

Bradbury is also concerned about meeting space for various community organizations. Groups can use the meeting space at Bill even when the library is closed, because of outside access, but this is not the case at Gales Ferry.

Library Commission member Rebecca Nash wrote in an email to Allyn on Tuesday, "The proposed schedule of alternating days of operation for the libraries does not meet the needs to the community nor does it consider the inherent inefficiencies of having high-level staff trying to operate in a building that does not include their workspaces, files, etc."

Some Ledyard residents spoke out against the new schedule at a special meeting of the Gales Ferry District on Wednesday evening.

Allyn told The Day he disagrees strongly with sentiments that the libraries were targeted.

He said the town has "been continually restructuring and creating the leanest budget and leanest workforce that we can," citing cuts to the Department of Public Works from 31 employees in the 1980s to 16 now.

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