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Rockford Public Library Board to consider reduction in hours and staffing, branch closures, and other operational changes

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Rockford Public Library Board of Trustees will consider major operational changes at a meeting next week.

A release from the Rockford Public Library explains trustees will consider a newly proposed service model which includes two key options:

• Close two branch locations: The Rock River branch on 11th Street and the Rockton Centre branch on Rockton Avenue. Staff at closed locations would relocate to other locations. However, overall staff would be reduced by approximately 11 part time or 7 full time employees.
• Reduce service hours at all five library locations by approximately 50%; or reducing hours from six days per week to three days per week. This would necessitate reducing staff by
approximately 27 part time or 16 full time equivalent employees.

Additionally, trustees will discuss the introduction of two mobile libraries. Those will travel to all areas of the city and will change locations based on need. The release says these mobile sites will include internet capabilities, exterior awnings for story times and displays, as well as other technology and a reading nook.

“I applaud the Library Board for reflecting on possible changes as the pandemic has interrupted our status quo. Over the past two years, the Library’s strategic plan has included ways to improve
our services to the community by focusing our resources on growing and developing the Library,” says RPL Executive Director, Lynn Stainbrook.

The proposal also includes the addition of 100 Chromebooks for adults to check out.

“Our existing service delivery model does not reflect the changes of today’s market, whose value of convenience over bricks and mortar is widely reflected by the unprecedented success of retail and healthcare platforms like Instacart, Uber, GrubHub and Telemedicine," says Stainbrook. "As a pandemic forces the Library and other businesses to re-create their services and ways of doing business, it is an opportune time for the Library to review its strategic plan and service delivery model. If these financial projections come to fruition, even to a less severe degree, the Library will not be able to sustain itself with its current service model. RPL has chosen to flip ‘disruptive innovation’ (i.e., innovation that disrupts) on its head and use the disruption of the pandemic to innovate.”

Other changes in the release include new shelving, a teen area, and enhanced youth space at the East Branch. The Montague branch would be upgraded with more "exterior interactive activities" and would become the home base for the mobile library. The new 68,000 square foot Main Library is anticipated to open in late 2022 or early 2023. At that time, the Interim Hart Library will be sold.

13 WREX has reached out to RPL for more information, this story will be updated as we learn more.

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