The Albany County Public Library will begin opening for three hours, from 1-4 p.m., each Sunday, starting Jan. 12.
Currently, the library is open just six days a week.
That decision came via a vote Monday night from the library board’s members, whose membership noted a strong interest from the Laramie community to have Sunday hours.
“With my family at least, the lack of Sunday hours are the ones that we feel the most, especially in the winter,” board member Chris Merrill said.
Board member Tim Monroe said he discussed options for expanded hours extensively with local elected officials, the majority of whom urged for Sunday hours.
Board member Mike Massie too said he often hears complaints from residents who would like to come in on Sundays to read newspapers and magazines.
Jubal Yennie, superintendent of Albany County School District No. 1, also recommended Sunday hours.
The expanded hours should cost about $6,500 each year.
Merrill, Monroe and Massie all voted in favor of Sunday hours. Board member Faryn Babbitt was not present at Monday’s meeting and chairman Scott Shoop did not vote.
The board’s decision differed from the recommendation of new Library Director Rachel Crocker, who was hired as director on a permanent basis in September. Crocker had been the interim director since April, when the library board fired former director Ruth Troyanek without explanation. Crocker was previously the assistant library director, and the library board is currently in the process of trying to fill that position.
Crocker had recommended the board wait to make a decision about expanded hours until November, when the board is set to discuss possible salary increases and other benefit issues.
Additionally, Crocker had suggested that added hours should come on Saturday morning, not Sunday afternoon. Currently, the library is open 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays, and Crocker had suggested opening the library at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Library board member Chris Merrill noted that, with Troyanek’s position going unfilled from April to September, the personnel savings provides enough funding to pay for the Sunday hours for multiple years.
Crocker said that she believes there are already existing staff members who will be interested in working the Sunday hours this coming spring. However, the library might need to eventually add staffing to sustain those hours, she said.
“We’ve been down 40 hours for seven months and we are feeling it,” Crocker.
Since 2012, the library’s staffing has declined by almost four full-time positions.
In suggesting expanding hours on Saturday rather than Sunday, Crocker noted that the library has tried opening on Sundays five times since 1994.
The most recent addition of Sunday hours came in 2015 and lasted only five months.
Crocker said that expanding Saturday hours to the morning would bring Laramie in line with statewide trends for libraries while also not duplicating the offering of the University of Wyoming’s Coe Library, which is open Sunday afternoons but not Saturday mornings.
“We’d be the only game in town there,” Crocker said.
Saturdays at the Laramie library also have the highest rate of items being checked out or returned, she noted.
Before the library board voted to expand to Sunday, Crocker had suggested to offer expanded Saturday hours on a trial basis beginning in January and then evaluating the popularity a few months later.
“We need the community to vote with their feet on their one,” Crocker said. “Whatever the board’s decision is, we need to market.”