Libraries using less with less due to budget cuts

February 18, 2011 4:37:21 PM PST
Checking out a library book in Houston is not as easy as it used to be. The city is doing more with less and it means less access to libraries for you. In Focus Reporter Ted Oberg takes a closer look at libraries in today's "Budget on your Block."

The library system lost bottom line cash last year and a city hiring freeze prevents them from replacing positions that were cut. Faced with that and a future that doesn't look any richer, Houston libraries had to adjust, doing less with less.

Berfit Jacobs and his sons use the library a lot. But when dad tried to return their books on a recent weekend, his son told him it's closed.

"He knew. I guess I just overlooked it somehow. I just assumed it would be open on Saturdays," Jacobs said.

Neighborhood libraries have been closed on Saturdays since April. The library had no choice.

"It was a tough decision," said Edward Melton of the Houston Public Library.

In the last year, the library lost 10 percent of its staff to attrition - 55 people they can't get back.

"We're really utilizing the staff," Melton said.

Melton, who's in charge of the Vinson Library in southeast Houston, says his remaining staff have all been retrained. No more split duties between reference and check out. Now everyone can do everything. But just not as often. The reduced hours have reduced library visits 14 percent.

"You would think they look at a lot of other place for cutting," Jacobs said.

There are some increases at the library. Technology use of computers and the internet at libraries is up. The library has put ebooks and audio books online at its website. And Melton said he's seen people in his parking lot when the library is closed, using the building's free wi-fi access from their car. No problem with that.

Now it's your turn. We want to hear how the government is doing less with less in your neighborhood. We've looked for examples of making subtle cuts under the more with less banner and now we need your help. Post your comments below or send in a video to our iWitness account by emailing the video to

You can see all of Ted Oberg's "Budget on your Block" stories by clicking here.