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The M.R. Davis Public Library will have reduced hours after Dec. 16, a move announced Wednesday by the First Regional Library Board of Trustees. The board said a nine-percent reduction in funding by the City of Southaven made the board choose cuts in operating hours over program cuts.

Patrons of the public library in Southaven will soon have fewer hours available to read and research materials. The governing body that oversees public libraries in northwest Mississippi has blamed funding cuts from the City of Southaven behind a decision to cut hours of operation.

In response, Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite pointed to what his city has done for the library and the fiscal decisions it had to make in approving the Fiscal Year 2020 budget it now operates under.

The First Regional Library Board of Trustees Wednesday announced a reduction in operating hours at the M.R. Davis Public Library in Southaven would begin on Dec. 16.

During the budget hearings of each municipality and the county, the Board of Trustees makes presentations to request funding to allow their respective libraries to operate for the year.

“We are so grateful for the funding we continue to get from the City of Southaven and DeSoto County in order to operate our Southaven branch library,” said Meredith Wickham, First Regional Library Director, in its announcement. “Unfortunately, this fiscal year we are experiencing a nine percent cut in funding from the City of Southaven, and our Board of Trustees made the tough decision to reduce the hours the library is open to the public.”

Starting Dec. 16, the Southaven Library would be open Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. The library will close at 6 p.m. on Monday-Wednesday, 8 p.m. on Thursday, and at 6 p.m. on Friday. The library will close at 5 p.m. on Saturday and be closed completely on Sunday.

The facility is currently open until 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 6 p.m. on Friday, until 5 p.m. on Saturday, and open Sunday afternoons from 2-5 p.m.

According to Wickham, the reduction in hours decision was made in an effort to not cut any of the library’s other resources.

“The M.R. Davis Public Library is one of the busiest libraries in the entire state, providing many programs and events for all ages, and a host of other essential services,” she said. “If we kept the same hours of operation, with the funding for fiscal year 2020, we’d have no choice but to cut our materials budget, as well as programs and services our patrons enjoy.”

In response to the Board of Trustees decision, Musselwhite pointed to what the City has done for it in the past.

“The City built a $3.5 million facility for the library and continues to provide this facility with exclusive use by them each year,” said Musselwhite. “In addition, the City gave $300,000 for annual operations for this regional library which may also receive funding from multiple sources, so the City is not responsible for their budget decisions nor their hours of service.”

Musselwhite added that in budget deliberations, tough choices on many fronts have to be made.

“The City is responsible for making sound financial decisions each year to meet ever-changing demands for all municipal services and must set priorities accordingly,” he said. “Specifically, this year’s budget is providing significant, increased funding for our police department to address the challenges of hiring and retaining quality officers.”

Caroline Barnett is the Head Librarian of the Southaven branch. Barnett said her staff is committed to seeing the patrons through this transition.

“We know it will likely be a tough change for many of them,” she said. “Our staff is committed to maintaining our excellent service to patrons, even with these reduced hours.”

Barnett said she was appreciative of the support the City of Southaven has given the library over the years.

“We are hopeful that in the future, we will be able to return to our former levels of funding and restore these hours,” said Barnett.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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