A lot has changed recently at what for decades was generically known as Chattanooga's "public library." It has a new director. It has renovated its facilities, streamlined its services and updated its holdings. It even has a new name -- it is now The Public Library rather than the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library. And it has new operating hours. The latter is a positive and welcome response to requests from the community to expand the library's accessibility through hours closely attuned to contemporary lifestyles.
The revamped schedules at the library's downtown flagship and at Northgate, Eastgate and South Chattanooga branches directly reflect the rising demand for library services in the evenings and on weekends. They also acknowledge changing patterns in usage, especially at Northgate and Eastgate, now the busiest sites in the library system.
Indeed, the new hours will be most noticeable at Eastgate and at Northgate. Both are now open on Sunday from 1-5 p.m., a boon for patrons whose weekday and Saturday schedules often make it difficult for them to get the library. Ditto for students, many of whom have longed for extended weekend access to the library and its storehouse of information during the school year.
The addition of Sunday hours is not the only significant change at the Eastgate and Northgate branches. In an acknowledgment of the demand for more evening hours, both branches will open at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Monday and Thursdays. The more traditional hours of 9 a.m.-6 p.m. will be observed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Both branches will be closed on Friday, traditionally the least busy day of the week.
There are major changes at the South Chattanooga branch as well. The branch now operates from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the first time in its 20-year existence that it has been open on Saturday. It will serve the public from 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and be closed on Friday and Sunday. That schedule adequately addresses the community's requests and needs.
Hours at the downtown facility have shifted, as well. It will be open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m.-6p.m on Friday and Saturday. It will be closed Sunday. The changes in operating schedule properly acknowledge shifting library usage in the downtown business and residential communities.
"I am thrilled that we were able to reconfigure our hours to better serve our customers," says Corinne Hill, the new executive library director. She, her staff and the library's board of directors have every right to be.
A library is best utilized when it is available to those who want to use it at a time that is convenient to them rather than during the often limited hours dictated by the conventional business and school day. The new schedules more carefully match changing demands for services with the ability of the library budget and staff to supply them than the old operating hours. The changes and the library's willingness to make them to better serve the public are gratifying.