Patrons of the Lomita Library were up in arms about cutbacks. Now, some of them are getting down to work.
Under a program started this month, six volunteers are working regular schedules to perform some of the library’s most basic tasks. The Lomita branch is the first county-run library to try the program, which has allowed it to stay open three days a week instead of two.
“Putting books back on the shelves may not seem like a big deal,” said Linda Shimane, library manager in Lomita. “But having volunteers do some of this work has allowed us to add an extra day of service to the community.”
The volunteers, most of them retired, shelve books, organize magazine racks and examine materials for damage.
Although the county has long used volunteers for such duties, library officials said the Lomita program is the first in which volunteers follow a schedule.
Workers donating their time must sign an agreement committing them to a fixed number of hours, generally four or five a week. In addition, city officials must agree to recruit enough volunteers to keep the library open for a third day.
“It’s a big responsibility to recruit people to work on a regular basis,” said Sandra Reuben, the county’s head librarian. “It can be hard to find someone who’s willing to put in the time every week.”
In exchange, Reuben said, the county pays for the extra time spent by librarians and other workers on the third day the library is open.
Officials in Hawthorne and Bellflower have expressed interest in bringing the program to their cities, Reuben said.
However, budget problems may bring an end to the program before many libraries have a chance to adopt it.
Last week, county officials said they may temporarily close up to 49 of the county’s 87 libraries because of a potential $9-million shortfall. The closures could come as early as July. Small libraries, such as the branch in Lomita, will probably be the first victims, officials said.
“Lomita is borderline because of its location and its size,” Reuben said. “It’s not nearly as large as the library in Carson, which is about six miles away.”
“I don’t want to talk about what will happen in July,” said volunteer Kathe Hull, a homemaker. “This program has been going wonderfully. It’s been a real boon to this community to have the library open an extra day. But it will go for nothing if the library closes.”
The fear that Lomita might lose its library has prompted some council members and candidates in April’s election to suggest buying it from the county.
However, some have said such proposals overlook the advantages of belonging to a county system that gives them access to more than 5 million books.
“That’s the real bonus to the way it is now with the county system,” Mayor Charles Belba said. “We haven’t done a study on taking over the library. When it gets down to hard-core discussion, we have to look at where the money would come from.”
Another plan to save the library is tied to the city’s movement to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District. If the city forms its own school district, it might be able to pay for an independent library with education money.
“But those are a lot of ifs, " said Barbara Learnard, vice president of the Friends of Lomita Library.