Disgruntled library patrons in Ventura County won a victory this week when county supervisors reversed themselves and voted to reopen library doors four nights a week and on Sunday afternoons.
Beginning Jan. 8, libraries in Ventura, Simi Valley, Camarillo, Port Hueneme and Ojai will expand their hours from two nights per week to four, and library hours in Fillmore and Moorpark will be increased from two to three nights per week.
In addition, Foster Library in Ventura and the Camarillo, Simi Valley, Port Hueneme and Ojai libraries will reopen from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays beginning March 4.
The cities of Oxnard and Thousand Oaks operate their own libraries. Santa Paula's library is privately run.
Using the entire library contingency fund of $318,000, the supervisors funded nine new positions for librarians and clerks, as well as a 10th slot for a coordinator to supervise the system's 575 volunteers.
Students were the big evening users and, together with their parents and teachers, became the most vocal complainers when the hours were cut Sept. 5, county officials said.
"If we can't reopen to this group of people, we're really not doing our job," Supervisor James R. Dougherty argued Tuesday.
"You can have the most expensive computer system in the world and the nicest-looking library in the world, and it isn't going to do you any good at all if the doors are shut."
The decision came after hundreds of complaints from library clients, Library Services Director Dixie D. Adeniran said.
"I heard over the telephone, through the mail, by people who pulled on my sleeve at public meetings," she said. "The most serious concern was weekday evenings."
The cuts became necessary after supervisors decided on a $9-million budget for library systems in July. At that time, the board funded a new computer system for $1.6 million, but denied Adeniran's request for an additional $1.2 million for staffing to handle increased business at the system's 17 branches.
The $318,000 taken from the contingency fund set aside for emergencies will finance the 10 positions for the remainder of the fiscal year.
"This is the minimum level of funding needed to open the doors," she said. "Even at this, we are still fairly severely understaffed."
For that reason, she said, she welcomed a review now under way by the county administrator's office.
The review, which is to be finished in two months, may recommend staffing alterations or other methods to work within the budget constraints, she said.
The volunteer coordinator will supervise the unpaid aides, write grants and plan fund-raisers. Adeniran and Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer called the position "money well spent."
Adeniran said she expected the board to continue to fund the library at its restored hours in future years.
Supervisors made the unanimous decision--a four-fifths vote was required to take money from the contingency fund--over the objections of County Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg, who urged the board to delay action until his office completes its review.
"My fear is that we're going to be in a situation where we're going to be really hurting . . . where your board is going to be stretched again," Wittenberg said.
Hours effective Jan. 8 at Foster and Wright libraries in Ventura, and in Camarillo, Simi Valley, Ojai and Port Hueneme will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Presently, the branches close at 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. On March 4, all the branches except Wright will open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Hours effective Jan. 8 at Ojai, Moorpark and Fillmore will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays.
The three are now open from noon to 9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.