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Library hours could be cut statewide

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Mar 19 2013 05:34:00 PM HST

State libraries are on the chopping block under the house draft budget making its way through the legislature and library patrons are pushing back.

HONOLULU -

Wade Rhein is a passionate patron who frequents the library often with his two young daughters.

"I love the Hawaii state library,” said Rhein.

He hopes lawmakers will reconsider their move.

"It is probably the easiest thing for them to do, but I think it has far reaching consequences and I think it’s a bad move," he said.

State librarian Richard Burns says the house draft would cut $2 million from his budget and eliminate 47 positions.

"If those positions and funding were reduced we may be forced to close libraries maybe as many as five libraries statewide so we are very concerned about this bill,” said Burns.

He hopes to convince the Senate Ways and Means committee that the library should be spared.

Burns explained that unlike other departments, the library system has more flexibility to hire temporary workers in part, because of geographic challenges.

There are some 50 libraries across the state.

Losing that flexibility could mean library shutdowns.

"It severely restricts the flexibility we have in which libraries and   how we can maintain public service and days," said Burns.

Burns says the Library for the Deaf and Blind, and two Big Island libraries are in danger as well as and two others that have yet to be determined.

The news is upsetting to Molokai resident Ric Ornellas, who comes to Honolulu to find books for his family and a 90-year-old friend to read.

"I think it’s a real disservice, as a school teacher and lover of all books and libraries. This is a depository of our civilization. This is where people can discovery and  explore and understand those things," Ornellas said.

The last attempt to cut library hours several years ago triggered a public outcry.

The state librarian hopes the senate will consider the unusual situation of operating branches across the state and spare the libraries from  the deep cuts.

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