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Enoch Pratt agrees to keep Waverly library open Fridays Compromise on hours follows 'read-in' protest


Two weeks after Waverly residents staged a "read-in" to protest sharp reductions in hours at their neighborhood library, Enoch Pratt Free Library officials have agreed to keep the branch open Fridays.

The agreement, announced yesterday and effective Nov. 6, came after library officials met Thursday with representatives from five neighborhood groups. Residents said they were pleased with the outcome, although the branch will lose four operating hours a week.

"I think that under the budgetary constraints they have, it was an honest compromise," said Paula Branch, a co-chair of the Better Waverly Improvement Association, which led the protest.

Enoch Pratt officials last month had planned to reduce weekly hours at the branch from 49 to 39 and close it Fridays. The branch had operated 54 hours a week until October 1994. Officials said they were cutting hours at some branches and expanding hours at others to try to provide equity throughout the 28-branch system.

But more than 30 residents held a "read-in" demonstration outside the building on 33rd Street. They sat in chairs in front of the building and read books to protest the reductions. They then met with Carla D. Hayden, the library director, and James Welbourne, assistant director, who agreed to delay the implementation of the new schedule.

In a follow-up meeting with residents Thursday, Mr. Welbourne presented a revised schedule that cuts only four weekly hours instead of 10 and restores Friday hours. The branch will open two hours later than planned Mondays and Tuesdays.

"Essentially what the community wanted and emphasized to us was a six-day week as being important to them because of lifestyles and patterns that differ in the Waverly community," said Averil Kadis, a library spokeswoman.

Under the new schedule, the Waverly branch will operate from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Area residents agreed to serve as volunteers to help librarians. Officials hope other discussions will yield additional security.

"I think it was good of them to meet us halfway," said Byron Merrick, the Better Waverly association's other co-chair. "I think they heard us."

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