$3.5 million to keep libraries open seven days a week

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Photo by Danny Fulgencio

The proposed Dallas city budget would provide a $3.5-million increase in funding to public libraries.

That means libraries including North Oak Cliff and Hampton-Illinois would have their hours restored to seven days a week. The proposed new schedule at Hampton-Illinois includes 7:45 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. And North Oak Cliff would be open until 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. Those later hours are intended to make the libraries more available to school children.

The budget also provides about $1.5 million for the 29 libraries to hire about 100 new employees, for a total of about 350. Before the libraries took drastic budget cuts in 2008, the system had about 560 employees. Thirteen of the libraries, including the central library downtown, would be open seven days a week.

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It’s a good start, but Dallas has the most poorly funded library system in the United States. Cities that Dallas wouldn’t compare itself to otherwise — Oklahoma City and Little Rock, for example — have superior library systems.

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“It’s been so long that Dallas has had a vibrant library system that people don’t even know what they’re missing,” says Kate Park of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library.

More funding is needed to purchase technology for the libraries, she says. The city’s 29 libraries have a total of five copy machines, and none of them have laptops, much less e-readers or tablets. Large-format scanners to replace the copiers would cost about $5,500 each, Park says.

“We’re very appreciative of the $6 million, but we want $10 million … so we can purchase technology that wasn’t even available six years ago,” she says.

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