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Library officials to meet again to discuss budget cuts

LAWRENCEVILLE - Furloughs will be on the table when library officials meet again to consider its services due to budget cuts in 2010, Chairwoman Phyllis Oxendine said.

The called meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the system's headquarters, located at the Lawrenceville branch at 1001 Lawrenceville Highway.

The move comes days after library management released to Lilburn, Snellville and Dacula officials details of a plan to convert those branches to "library and technology centers."

The report says the centers will have books - a change from the "computer lab" model approved by the library board at its Sept. 22 meeting - as well as digital resources, such as long computer sessions, a video-conferencing computer, an Apple iMac, photo and video creation stations, a computer programming learning station and a pilot program involving the use of in-house library laptops.

Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said the information is mostly in the form of a summary and it does little to dispel the community's fears of losing service.

"It's just what they proposed by another name," he said. "It's not what we would consider a full-service library."

Michelle Long, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Public Library, said she could not comment on the new information, and she said she did not have information about the upcoming meeting.

The agenda, she said, involves the "direction of business services for Fiscal Year 2010."

"We're trying to do the best for this community," she said, declining to give specifics.

When reached by phone on Monday, Oxendine, Board of Trustees Chairwoman, said the meeting was called at the request of another board member. She said the regional approach will likely be back on the table.

"I think it's an excellent idea," to meet again before the regular meeting in November. "I think we need to get together and talk about some of these issues."

Community members have been in an uproar since a called meeting in August, where board members cited reduced funding as a reason to close the three-year-old Dacula branch and shift staff to open the nearby Hamilton Mill branch.

With library hours already reduced and Sunday and Monday service canceled, the decision to close Dacula was revisited in September, when the board instead adopted a regional model, choosing to create regional libraries at the Collins Hill, Five Forks and Suwanee branches that would be open 43 hours a week.

With the Lilburn, Dacula and Snellville branches deemed library and technology centers to be open 35 hours a week, the remaining nine branches, including Hamilton Mill, would be community libraries open 35 hours a week.

Long said the meeting is open to the public, but it will not include the public comment period, which begins 30 minutes prior to regularly scheduled meetings of the library board of trustees.

"This is the third one so far," Wilbanks said of meetings to handle the budget situation. He said board members have thus far "ignored" commissioners, three of whom signed a letter two weeks ago asking that the regional model be reconsidered.

"I don't know what to think about them," he said of the trustees.