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Bookworms face fewer hours at La Jolla library

Like other public libraries citywide, La Jolla’s Florence Riford branch is sharing the pain of budget cuts, having its hours and staff cut to do its part to make up for the city’s projected $179 million shortfall this fiscal year.

“We’re closed on Mondays,” Riford Head Librarian Catherine Greene said. “On Saturdays, we used to be open until 5:30 p.m., but now we’ll only be open until 2:30 p.m.”

Greene said the La Jolla library will remain open on Sundays, but added that it wouldn’t be if not for special funding set aside by a late library donor. The only other branches among the city’s 35 libraries still open on Sundays are the Point Loma and Serra branches.

Friends of the La Jolla Library, a not-for-profit supporting the Florence Riford branch, is redoubling its efforts to find new revenue sources to try and offset recent library budget cuts.

“We’re going to be doing more fundraising and outreach,” Friends’ President Doug Dawson said. “We’re talking about doing a gala or similar event for the La Jolla Public Library and doing more social media and social networking.”

Dawson said the nonprofit will try to get more private philanthropy through the Internet. “We’re also going to be doing more direct mail to the community,” he said. “We’re going to be stepping up our efforts looking for more local family foundations, business or corporate philanthropic support and reaching out to the citizens of La Jolla asking their support through a major gift fund not dissimilar to what La Jolla Playhouse or Scripps Hospital might do.”

Meanwhile, La Jolla’s branch has also had to undergo personnel cuts.

“We’ve lost 1 1/2 staff people, an excellent, well-educated, invaluable library assistant,” said Greene, adding that the other half-position is a library clerk who used to put in 20 hours at the circulation desk but now will only be working five hours on Sundays.

Greene’s staff is small: five full-time employees plus several hourly aides who do mostly reshelving work.

The recent budget cuts have had some other unexpected consequences. Greene said: “We have to have people come in and empty the book drops on the days we’re closed because we get hundreds of books. We have two people come in Mondays two hours each just to clear the book drop.”

Greene added many people were unaware of the cuts that just went into effect March 20.

“A lot of people weren’t aware, even though we put up signs,” she said. “Some of us will be working here before it opens, and there will be a lot of people outside looking in.”