The fact is that most local libraries are not open at all on Sundays in the summer. While many of the nearby communities do offer Sunday hours at their libraries during the school year, in the summer they are almost always closed. Neither Newton or Cambridge, two of our closest network libraries, have Sunday hours in the summer. Furthermore, none of the Boston libraries have Sunday hours in the summer, even the branches in nearby Allston and Brighton. So I expected that opening Coolidge in the summer for one Sunday afternoon would be welcome.
Indeed, it appears that it was.
On Sunday, July 31, I visited the library to take note of the results of the trial balloon. I arrived at the Coolidge Corner branch library at around 1:45 pm and stayed until 3:30 pm. When I got there, the library was very busy. Lots of patrons were present. One of the staff members who usually works at Putterham but chose to work at Coolidge on Sunday told me that when they opened at 1 pm, there were already 25 patrons waiting to get into the library. She was working at a very busy circulation desk with a long line.
I walked around to see that the patrons represented a large cross-section of the community, not just any one group. Most of the chairs were occupied, and all of the computers were being used. Lots of books and other materials were being checked out. All sections of the library were being used. I recognized a lot of people from Brookline, Allston, and Brighton.
The library had arranged a special program item for the day, the puppet show "Here Come the Clowns" performed by Brad Shur of Puppet Showplace Theatre. It was very popular. I counted over 60 people in attendance, about half of them children, and then I gave up counting. The kids were very engaged with the show.
I ran into two other Library Trustees who took the opportunity to visit the library on Sunday. I also ran into fellow Town Meeting Members and an Advisory Committee member who was delighted by the library being open. He told me he would support whatever the library needed for the budget to be open more regularly on Sundays in the summer.
One staff member told me that all of the staff working that day were volunteers, happy to be earning the extra money to work on a Sunday. It sounds like no one found themselves forced to work due to lack of volunteers.
Finally, a few days later the Library Director provided me with attendance and circulation numbers for the day. I didn't write them down, and they will be reported at the Trustees' next public meeting in September, but the numbers were quite respectable. Even without seeing them, though, but from just walking around the library, I would say that the experiment was an unqualified success.
A few Brookline residents have asked me what they can now do to help continue the idea of Sunday hours next summer. The best thing anyone can do who wants to show further support would be to send a polite letter to the Library Trustees care of the main library and to the Selectmen and Town Administrator care of Town Hall. The process of creating the budget for the next fiscal year will start very soon if it hasn't already; your elected officials need to know that you want the library to be open on Sundays in the summer for it to happen.