Santa Ana library to open on Sundays for first time in 20 years; which other O.C. libraries have Sunday hours?


Fullerton Main, 1-5 p.m.

Mission Viejo, 12-5 p.m.

Newport Beach Central, 12-5 p.m.

Newport Beach Mariners Branch, 12-5 p.m.

Placentia Library District, 1-5 p.m.

Santa Ana Main, 12-4 p.m. starting Sept. 20

Costa Mesa, Donald Dungan Library, 12-5 p.m.

Costa Mesa, Mesa Verde Library, 12-5 p.m.

Cypress, 12-5 p.m.

Dana Point, 12-5 p.m.

Garden Grove Regional, 12-5 p.m.

Irvine – Heritage Park Regional, 12-5 p.m.

Irvine, Katie Wheeler, 12-5 p.m.

Irvine, University Park, 12-5 p.m.

La Habra, 12-5 p.m.

Laguna Niguel, 12-5 p.m.

Lake Forest, El Toro, 12-5 p.m.

San Clemente, 12-5 p.m.

San Juan Capistrano, 12-5 p.m.

Tustin, 12-5 p.m.

SANTA ANA – Starting Sept. 20, Santa Ana Main Library will open on Sundays for the first time in so long that its resourceful librarians couldn’t even dig up the date of the last such opening.

While scouring microfiche, Lynn Nguyen, principal librarian of technology and support services, found City Council meeting minutes from March 23, 1993, that mentioned the library operating on Sundays. That, Nguyen said, is a good indication that the library hasn’t opened on Sundays for more than 20 years.

“I sort of remember when I first started that it had either just stopped having Sunday hours or was about to stop doing it,” added Heather Folmar, who as library operations manager oversees nine librarians. “So it’s certainly been as long as I’ve been here that there have been no Sunday hours.”

Folmar, who has worked for the library for a quarter of a century, now has the pleasure – and challenge – of serving the public on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. thanks to $83,000 from the city, which she says is “just enough” to get through a year.

The expansion comes six years after the library went from being its own department to falling under the umbrella of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency, due to drastic cost-cutting measures the city was forced to make during the recession.

Then-Library Department Director Robert Richard retired, Folmar recounted, and she took over as the library began a new chapter in its organizational history. Hours at its only branch, the Newhope Library Learning Center, were cut, and library staff and its parent agency’s executive director Gerardo Mouet worked without any secretaries or clerks as other cost-cutting measures.

Two years later, in 2012 – ironically when Santa Ana Public Library was named a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Services – the city considered ceding library services to Orange County Public Library.

“It would have become a cog in a very large machine,” said Folmar, adding about the county, “Not that they don’t do wonderful things, but it’s hard to specialize community by community in a big system.”

After Mouet showed that outsourcing library services would cost roughly the same, the city kept the library’s meager operations intact. Running a tight ship has paid off – as the city’s general fund has grown healthier $225.8 million in recent years, the library, which has a $3.7 million budget, has seen investments.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the city’s five-year strategic plan called for the library to provide e-library services to the community and allocated $250,000 annually to boost technology availability for the community. This fiscal year, the city added another $22,000 for the library’s e-book collection and increased the books and materials budget by $200,000 per year.

Daily attendance at Santa Ana Main Library and its branch is about 1,650, with the busiest days being Mondays and Tuesdays, suggesting patrons have business at the library they were unable to conduct on Sunday, Folmar said. She would consider 600 to 700 patrons on Sundays a success. Across Orange County, 19 libraries are open on Sundays.

Bringing back Sundays was the recommendation of City Manager David Cavazos, who has implemented management consolidation practices from his days as Phoenix city manager and decided to fund library services expansion rather than a new library director position.

“People who go to the library don’t care who’s in charge,” he said. “They want to make sure there are books, hours, that every single nickel goes to that.”

Gearing up to work the former blackout day is “a little bit awkward,” she said, because one of the two recently hired librarians filling vacancies won’t come on board until next month and existing employees are still being promoted into library assistant roles.

“We’ll be limping along a little until then. I’ve been challenged, but you know, it’s been fun,” said Folmar with a laugh. “This is a fantastic group of people. Never was so much owed by so many to so few – forgive my Churchill comment.”

Contact the writer: Contact the writer: 714-796-7762, or on Twitter: @JessicaGKwong

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