Thanks to revenue from passport services, the Hall County Library System (HCLS) is thinking it will be able to expand service hours later this year at its three largest branches.
Library System Director Lisa MacKinney said at a Tuesday night library board meeting that revenue generated from last July through April 30 of this year amounts to some $125,000 - a number much higher than the system had hoped for when the service began more than a year ago.
MacKinney said opening up the passport office in January 2016 at the Blackshear Place Branch revitalized that facility.
"It kind of got lost during road work on Atlanta Highway because Blackshear Place's entrance changed," MacKinney said. "[But we knew] it was a perfect location for this program because it's right in the middle of the county. It just made perfect sense to situate it at such a convenient central location right off of I-985."
Not only did the passport program drive traffic to the Blackshear Place Branch for that particular service, it also allowed patrons to rediscover the branch and begin using it for other services, according to MacKinney.
Now, the additional business generated by the passport program should translate to expanded services for the overall system, services that were cut back during the economic downturn of 2008.
"We want to get to more stable opening times every day of the week and then extend a couple of hours to a couple of nights during the week. We'd like to stay open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday instead of closing at 6 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," MacKinney said.
MacKinney said the additional revenue from the passport program means the library board won't have to ask for additional funding from Hall County, the entity responsible for funding a large portion of library operations.
"We're trying to use every penny of the revenue we're able to generate first. We don't want to go to the county with our hand out for more than we absolutely have to ask for because the county is still in a rebuilding phase, as well," MacKinney said.
Board members gave approval to the tentative budget, which included the plan to extend hours at three branches (the Main Branch in Gainesville, Spout Springs and Blackshear Place), knowing that the final budget would not be available until after Hall County completes its budget process.
Should everything go as planned, the extended hours would begin in September.