Wake residents will likely have more opportunities to check out books or access internet for free.
County commissioners on Monday said they hope to open three more county libraries on Sundays during the next fiscal year, which starts in July. Wake’s seven largest libraries are currently open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Commissioners’ Chairman Sig Hutchinson said the board will likely go with a plan recommended by commissioner Jessica Holmes to open three libraries in “vulnerable” areas next year, in hopes of opening more in summer 2018 if Holmes’ plan is successful.
“As the General Assembly moves from funding textbooks to a focus on technology, we have to address the realization that many students do not have access to computers or the internet at home,” Holmes said.
The board, which won’t take a final vote on its budget until later this month, hasn’t determined which three libraries it would open.
The commissioners met in a work session on Monday to discuss the proposed budget for next year. The $1.26 billion budget proposal calls for spending $61.4 million more than this year and raising the property tax rate by 1.45 cents per $100 in value.
Commissioners spent most of the morning talking about school funding, which they didn’t come to an agreement on, but reached a consensus that opening more libraries on Sunday would benefit students and Wake residents who don’t have consistent internet access.
The county runs a total of 22 libraries: seven regional facilities, 13 community libraries, the Olivia Raney Local History Library and the Express Library on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Only the regional libraries – Cameron Village, East Regional in Knightdale, Eva Perry Regional in Apex, North Regional on Harps Mill Road in Raleigh, Northeast in Raleigh, Southeast in Garner and West Regional in Cary – are open on Sundays.
On average, the regional libraries are 37 percent busier and handle 64 percent more books on Sundays than on weekdays, according to county staff. Opening three community libraries would cost about $78,000, Holmes said, while opening all 13 community libraries would cost $276,000.
Commissioner Greg Ford said he’s open to adding Sunday hours to six more libraries next year, but supports Holmes’ phased approach.
“I am all for a scalable model as long as the understanding is that, if we start with three, there’s a commitment to opening more so long as the data supports it,” Ford said.
“As I’ve gone into a lot of libraries, especially on the weekends, there’s a lot of folks meeting and tutoring,” he added. “The demand is there.”