Beginning tonight, the Camarillo High School library will open every Wednesday evening to both students and the public in an effort to make up for recent cuts in hours at the local public library.
The move makes Camarillo High the only Ventura County school to open its library in the evenings and the only one besides Oak Park High School to admit the public, school librarians said.
But high school librarians in Ventura, Simi Valley and Moorpark said they are also considering expanding their hours to compensate for shorter hours at public libraries.
At Camarillo High, new Principal Terry Tackett said he suggested the evening hours to help students take advantage of the library, which was remodeled and expanded two years ago.
Normally, the school library closes at 4 p.m., making it inaccessible after school to football players and other athletes who practice in the afternoon.
Under the new schedule, the library will open Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. The local branch of the county library closes at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, although it may soon extend its hours to 8 p.m.
Besides wanting to help make up for public library cutbacks, Tackett said he hopes to encourage community participation at the school by admitting local residents.
Although the public won’t be able to check out volumes, they will be free to read books from the shelves, leaf through magazines and use reference materials.
“We want our students back on campus taking advantage of our library facility,” Tackett said. “We want the public back on our campus, involved in our school, involved in our campus.”
Even though public schools have been squeezed in recent years by the same state budget cuts that have hurt public libraries, Camarillo High was able to afford extending its library hours because of the cooperation of school Librarian Sue Kipp.
Saying that school library hours often fail to meet students’ needs, Kipp is rearranging her schedule for no extra pay to work the extra three hours Wednesday evening.
Except for class visits organized by teachers, students are able to use the school library only in the half-hour before school starts, during lunch and for 30 minutes after the last bell.
“A lot of the students pop in for 10 minutes before school,” she said. “They don’t get as much accomplished as if they could sit down and work for a longer amount of time.”
Kipp said she believes that Camarillo High may be on the cutting edge of a trend.
“If public libraries continue to have their hours cut, I think the school libraries are going to have to step in and stay open more,” she said.
But some local library boosters warned that residents should not expect schools to fill the role of public libraries.
Although Camarillo Friends of the Library President Louise Choate praised Camarillo High for its consideration of community needs, she pointed out that the school’s location at the eastern edge of the city makes it inconvenient for most residents.
“I don’t think it’s an overall answer to the library situation,” Choate said. “But I think it’s a heck of a good thing for the students.”
And some students agreed.
Junior Jason Mastro, 16, said he plays on the school football team.
By the time practice is over every day at 5 p.m., the school library is closed, he said, making it impossible for him to get books for reports or other homework that is often due the next day.
“I wing it,” Jason said. “I go through my house looking for books.”
Senior Sara Brennan, 16, said she has no desk at home and uses the school library as a quiet place to study.
“I share a room with my sister,” Sara said. “And it’s crowded.”
And senior Josie Trinidad, 16, who spent her lunch hour Tuesday bent over her algebra book in the library, said that sometimes she gets the urge after school to find a new book to read.
“With all the cuts, I’m not even sure when the public library’s open,” she said.