Sad Tale of Bare Shelves : Budget: Library patrons feel the sting of cutbacks as hours are sliced, magazine subscriptions are discontinued and bestsellers aren't so novel by the time they reach readers.


The changes that hard budget times have wrought upon the Glendale Central Public Library are easy to see, like the new-books shelf toward the front that is only one-fourth full.

Some periodicals that used to be on the shelves are no longer there--Mirabella, Teen, Jack and Jill, the Sacramento Bee. The library, which serves about 3,000 people a day, had to drop more than 90 of its subscriptions.

And the waiting list to read some new books practically guarantees that the books will no longer be new by the time they reach the reader's hands, with more than 250 people waiting to read Robert Waller's "Bridges of Madison County" and John Grisham's "The Firm."

No new educational videos have been purchased since July, 1992, when librarians searched for more ways to cut the budget. Now all videos, limited to entertainment films, are purchased by the Friends of the Glendale Public Library, which charges $1 a day to rent them. The rental money is then used to buy more videos.

The library was able to buy only 11,000 books this year, compared with the 20,000 books it purchased two years ago, because the book budget has been reduced by 50% since 1991.

"What this means is that we've cut back on buying the more expensive materials," said Laurel Patric, director of libraries, adding that the book budget this year is $200,000, compared with $400,000 in the 1991 fiscal year. "And instead of buying multiple copies of bestsellers, we'll buy two copies instead of eight or 10."

Philip Babet, searching the shelves with a long list of books in hand, was quite aware of the scarcity of educational videos. "I recently saw a PBS series called 'Renaissance,' " he said. "I wanted to see it again, so I asked the librarian in charge of videotapes when they were going to get this 1993 series. She said they probably won't be getting it at all."

People such as Sandra Sonntag were having trouble finding books on specialty topics, which library officials said they aren't buying as often. Sonntag, an attorney writing a murder mystery, couldn't locate a book on choking and strangulation. "I think it might be too specific for the library to have," she said.

In the children's library, librarians are ordering one-half the picture books and fiction books they did two years ago and concentrating on books that children need when doing their homework, said Carolyn Flemming, children's services coordinator. "In general, we're not buying all the new encyclopedias we did, either," she noted. "Instead of buying two or three different kinds, we're just buying the World Book Encyclopedia."

The big library crunch came last year, Patric said, when city revenues dropped, and the library's budget, excluding the literacy program, was cut by about $218,000 for the 1992 fiscal year. The budget totaled $4.754 million.

"We've had to cut four full-time positions," Patric said. "As a consequence, . . . hours were cut 47 hours a week at the library's five branches."

The central library's hours, however, have remained the same, open every day except Sunday.

At the Casa Verdugo branch at 1151 N. Brand Blvd., nearly 13 hours a week have been cut, meaning that the library is open only one evening a week and four hours on Saturdays.

"What happens is that libraries always seem to take it on the chin when there is a tax cut or revenue reduction," said Mary Alice Wollam, the Casa Verdugo branch supervisor. "And what's interesting is that, in our declining economy and with more people out of work, the public library really serves as a place to look at want ads, how to write a resume or find out about career changes."

Already the shorter hours have become inconvenient for Lynne Naeve, a fourth-grade teacher. "I find most of the books that I need," she said. "But I do most of my class planning on the weekends, and the library (branch) is hardly open on Saturdays."

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