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EAST LOS ANGELES : Library to Celebrate Expanded Hours

November 20, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

All that Brooklyn Elementary pupil Abraham Fuerte wanted to know on a class trip to the East Los Angeles Library last week was whether the library would be open on Thursdays.

Thanks to unexpected money from the county, the answer was yes--as of Dec. 5.

The East Los Angeles Library, like all branches in the county library system, had to scale back its hours over the past two years, going from 50 hours a week to 28 and closing Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays. The austere budget this year forced the closure of 10 branches and drastic cuts in operations and staff.

But now, with an unexpected budget increase from the County Board of Supervisors, library manager Linda Chavez has hired six new part-time staff members and expanded hours to six days a week--except Sundays.

And Abraham, 10, will be able to visit the library when he wants.

"We were coming in to look at some books (on a Thursday) and we looked through the window and saw nobody," Abraham said, recalling a visit to the branch with a friend. "We just left."

Chavez said she hopes the new hours will help reverse a slide in library usage, which has declined from 12,000 patrons a month to 6,000 in two years.

"We've lost a lot of customers and we want people to know that we're open now," Chavez said. "It's difficult to build up that base again."

The library will celebrate the new hours Dec. 5 with mariachis, balloons and special guests at 10 a.m. and again, to attract schoolchildren, at 3 p.m. Visitors will get tours of the library and learn how to use its resources.

The Anthony Quinn and City Terrace branches also recently expanded their hours, from two days to five, and the El Camino branch will expand its hours to five days a week in December.

Along with the new hours and staff, the East Los Angeles branch has more money now to buy new materials and subscribe to newspapers and magazines it had discontinued during the financial drought. The budget for materials, including books, audiovisual materials and periodicals, had been cut from $68,600 in the 1991-92 fiscal year to $15,140 in 1992-93 and $5,079 for this year.

Chavez has not received word yet on how large the budget increase for materials will be, but said she expects it to be near the 1991-92 fiscal year allocation.

In response to the financial strain, the library a year ago formed a support group, Friends of the East L.A. Library and the Chicano Resource Center. The group has hosted book sales, poetry readings, speakers and other events to get the community more involved with the library.

"Out of fear we all just got together and wanted to do something" about the budget cuts, said Sofia Chavez (not related to Linda), vice president of the group. "We want to continue doing those kinds of things as well as push for the Board of Supervisors to find some secure funding source for the library."

As for Abraham and his classmates, getting their first library card and finding out where the scary stories are shelved was a priority last Wednesday. Their teacher, Purisima Bing, looked on and kept order among the curious and excited children.

"I want them to come here on their own. There are a lot of bright minds," Bing said. "A lot of them don't use their ability to the maximum, and if we can get them interested at this age, they will continue to read and learn new things."

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