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Patron feedback positive at Kealakekua library

August 4, 2017 - 12:05am

The Kealakekua Public Library has recently enjoyed a flurry of West Hawaii Today coverage regarding our programs and change in schedule.

Most of the comments we hear from our patrons have been overwhelmingly supportive and appreciative of the expansion of hours by 50 percent (10 more hours a week), but many of the letters to the editor have been negative and unfairly harsh on the staff here at Kealakekua in lamenting the loss of Saturdays, which was one of our slowest days of usage. As the branch manager and a 20 year-plus employee of the Hawaii State Public Library System, I can vouch that the staff here at Kealakekua have taken the extra effort to keep this library open and responsive to the communities’ need.

It is rare to find a state organization that is increasing hours and workload. The employees and their unions must agree to these changes. Staff at Kealakekua wanted to ensure that this library never goes on the cutting block again because of the lack of open hours, low usage or staffing issues.

The survey we did of library users in the Kona to Ka’u areas showed a preference for a Monday through Friday schedule just like all the other small, rural libraries on this island. One of the options on the survey was Tuesday to Saturday. Staff were willing to work that schedule as well, but the vote tally showed Monday through Friday was favored, probably because the regional library, Kailua-Kona is on a Tuesday through Saturday schedule, and Monday is one of our busiest days at Kealakekua.

The decision to expand hours was an effort many years in the making and was not taken lightly and involved a month’s worth of gathering feedback from area library users . In response to criticisms about staff effort to encourage Saturday usage, we canvassed the area to try to get more patronage on Saturdays. I personally went out on weekends to try to draw the Spanish speaking community that Mr. Martinez says wants to use the library on Saturdays. We had programs on Saturdays where we literally went out on the street to encourage people to come in to attend.

We would like to reach out to those that have voiced their complaints to the editor of West Hawaii Today. As the branch manager, only one person has spoken to me with a complaint about the new schedule, whereas tens of people have thanked us, and on average, 150 more people a week are using us at times when we had been closed before.

We would like to be in contact with those who have such strong feelings about the library and not just read harsh letters in the newspaper about us, but we are not familiar with any of the angry writers as our patrons with the exception of Megan Mitchell, who wrote the “My Turn” column and the two positive letters from actual library users.

We are sad to disappoint even one of our patrons, and I would like to invite anyone who has a concern about the new schedule to contact me directly. I would be happy to have a town hall meeting with you on a Saturday to discuss your concerns and try to address them.

Shelly Brown is the branch manager for the Kealakekua Public Library.

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