Sep 2, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff WriterAt the Fremont County Library in Lander, director Matt Nojonen recently had to stop some patrons from leaving in a "mass exodus at a quarter after 7."
"'Wait a minute, you don't have to go,'" Nojonen recalled telling the group, welcoming the late-evening visitors to hang out a while longer.
In a significant change for patrons of the Fremont County Library System, the facilities in Lander, Riverton and Dubois have extended hours that started Aug. 6.
"Right now we're back to the hours we had in '09 and '010," Nojonen told county commissioners during their meeting on Aug. 28.
The longer operation amounts to eight additional hours a week at each location. They also generated some commission support.
"I agree with them," said commissioner Dennis Christensen, who is the county's liaison to the library board. "The libraries are public and they need to be open."
The libraries in Lander and Riverton are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Previously the two sites closed at 7 p.m. except for Friday and Saturday when they closed at 4 p.m.
The Dubois library is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday though Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The Dubois library previously closed at 6 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
"Those hours were reduced back in August 2010 because of the county's budget problems, so the library lost funding, had to cut some things and the hours were reduced at that time," Nojonen said in an interview.
The new hours reflect a shift in budget practices to keep the sites open longer and accommodate patrons's needs, he said.
"I knew that it was a very high priority. The library board, the management team, everybody here really understood how important it was to provide" access to the libraries, Nojonen said.
"We reviewed our budget proposal for this fiscal year and reallocated money," he said. The result is the libraries "were able to get to the point where we could restore those hours without adding cost for the county."
Nojonen anticipates the patrons utilizing the extended hours. "I think the whole community will benefit," he said.
"Naturally it kind of started out a little slow," he added. "After a couple of years of this, people get used to that schedule. The idea the library is going to be open later is something they're going to have to get used to again."
From books to DVDs to Internet access and other services, patrons can visit the libraries later and utilize all functions.
"It's full service," Nojonen said. "Everything we offer is available, just a few more hours every day."
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