MANATEE — Sunday afternoons at the Manatee County Public Library’s Central Branch on scenic Barcarrota Boulevard West have been a way of life for many the past 10 years.
Beginning Oct. 4, however, the library will no longer be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Debra Kraner, head of support services for the Manatee County Library, says budget concerns prompted the move.
For many who enjoy the leisurely pace of Sundays by the Manatee riverfront, the closure is like the loss of a comfortable pair of slippers.
“If I am off on Sundays, I come here,” said Sharon Blake, who was hunting down a new romance novel Sunday.
Blake, who works for a company that provides the food service for Manatee Memorial Hospital, visits the library two or three Sundays a month.
“It’s always quiet here on Sundays,” Blake said. “It’s nice. There’s a lot of older people and mothers and children. I get absorbed in my romance novels.
“I’ll have to try to come Saturdays if I can.”
For others, like Bradenton’s Bruce Roberts, the ending of this Sunday institution is more than just a matter of rearranging a schedule or finding a different recreation.
Roberts is one of many who pack the second floor of the Central Branch each Sunday, interacting with the outside world through several rows of computers.
But Roberts goes beyond that. He uses the computers to help people who aren’t computer literate, he said.
This Sunday, he was helping Bradenton’s Patrick Lynch get a free SafeLink phone.
“I also help the unemployed get food stamps,” Roberts said. “I try to work most of the week and Sunday is about the only day I can do this for people who need help. Closing this on Sunday would be a bad thing.”
Lauren Richard, a recent King Middle School graduate, Manatee High School freshman-to-be and a budding musical theater star at Manatee Players, was at the library Sunday with her mother, Cheryl, getting a novel on her summer reading list.
“We go shopping on Sunday and we know this branch is open 1 to 5 so we can run over here and pick up what we need,” said Cheryl Richard, who says her normal Sunday library routine includes picking up a few DVDs.
Budget cuts have been steadily trimming hours at Central Branch.
Current operating hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
Kraner, who has worked for the library for nearly 34 years, prefers to look at the library situation as a glass as half full.
“Don’t forget, Central Branch has been here 30 years and it took us 20 years before we even opened on Sundays,” Kraner said. “All in all, we feel fortunate we are only losing four hours this year.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.