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Peninsula libraries feeling dog-eared by budget cuts

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Libraries across the county are about to endure another round of cuts this budget season, which means fewer hours, fewer librarians and fewer books.

And many library advocates worry those resources will be permanently checked out.

Daly City’s library, which last year was forced to reduce its hours at its main library and one of its branches by 18 hours, will be cutting hours again at two of its branches. Its book budget will also be about $50,000 less this year than last year, Library Director Carol Simmons said.

Burlingame is in even worse shape: It is still waiting to see if the community will come up with the funds to save its Easton Branch — which will only remain open if the city receives $70,000 in donations from the community. It has also axed its entire book budget — $180,000 — this year, and has asked its foundations to raise funds to help cushion that blow, City Librarian Pat Harding said.

South San Francisco’s libraries saw 21 hours of cuts last year but are managing to hold onto those hours this year, said Assistant Library Director Cheryl Grantano-Rich. However, South City will only cut half of a full-time position at a time when the libraries are the busiest they’ve been in years.

“This impacts the wait in lines — it keeps us from doing the kind of programming that our patrons have been able to enjoy,” she said. “And we just keep getting busier and busier.”

Greg Bodin, assistant director of the San Mateo County Library System, said officials have been fortunate not to have to make any service cuts, but the book budget is being slashed from $2 million to $1.5 million.

In fact, not a single library on the Peninsula has been unscathed by budget cuts in the last two years, said Linda Crowe of the Peninsula Library System, which provides support and resources to all 20 cities.

“All are facing at least 10 percent cuts, for some libraries it could be as much as 25 percent,” she said. “I’ve seen cuts before but it’s never been as bad as this.”

Many worry about the changes.

“There’s a lot of changes and I’m not sure it’s ever going to be the way it was,” Crowe said. “We’re not just talking about libraries — talking about all of government services.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com