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Charlotte Area

Libraries remain open

All 24 public libraries in Mecklenburg County will remain open at least through June 30. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library board today voted to dump plans approved just last week to close 12 branches. Now, services will be cut at all libraries. Library Board director Charles Brown said public outcry over the plan to close libraries prompted the board to look at alternatives to deal with a $2 million budget cut. "We were trying to maintain the highest quality service, at least in some areas of Mecklenburg County," Brown said. "But we heard from the community that they want to preserve locations. They want that convenient access. So we're exploring another strategy to preserve locations, but there will need to be cuts in both services and hours to compensate. There are no easy tradeoffs." Beginning April 5, all libraries will be restricted to 8 hours a day and be open for only five days a week. Currently, 21 of the system's 24 libraries are open 6 or 7 days a week. The library board is also laying off 84 employees and imposing across-the-board pay cuts of 5 to 20 percent on everyone else. The library system's future remains unclear after June 30, when a new fiscal year begins. County Manager Harry Jones has proposed cutting the library board's budget by $17 million dollars. That's 50 percent of its budget approved for the current fiscal year. Donations continue to trickle in to help the library system. About $200,000 had been raised as of this afternoon.