News • August 22, 2023

Riverside Libraries Now Open on Sundays

Riverside library patrons can now visit on Sundays, thanks to new hours that went into effect earlier this month.

Riverside’s Main Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays to Sundays. The city’s other seven branches are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. All locations are closed on Mondays.

Library hours vary across the Inland Empire, with some library systems closed Sundays but others open for at least a few hours on Sundays.

Riverside Library Director Erin Christmas said Wednesday, Aug. 9, that the Sunday hours came in response to patrons’ demand for library use. A community engagement survey done a year ago showed that library users wanted more weekend hours, she said.

The city was able to hire 16 more part-time employees to make the change happen, she said.

Christmas said the library won’t necessarily see more traffic on Sundays, but instead, it may attract different patrons who may not be able to use the library during the week.

“We want to make sure we’re providing access for those individuals as well,” Christmas said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s Main and La Sierra branches were open for half-days on Sundays, Christmas said.

Those were the only sites open on Sundays for the past 15 years, Assistant Library Director Jessica Herdina wrote in an email Friday, Aug. 18. And, when libraries reopened after COVID-19, they did not have the staffing to continue the extended hours, she wrote.

However, more than 100,000 more people visited Riverside libraries during fiscal year 2022-23 than the year before, Herdina wrote. And, over the past year, new library card registrations have increased 60% from 2018-19, the last fiscal year before COVID-19 hit, she said.

With the new hours, “we’re anticipating that our numbers will continue to increase,” Herdina wrote.

In Redlands, the A. K. Smiley Public Library is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, and between seven and 11 hours a day the rest of the week.

Library Director Don McCue said Friday, Aug. 18, that budget is the key factor in deciding how many hours the library is open.

“We did have some severe hour cuts as a result of the COVID crisis,” he said.

The library was closed from March to September 2020, but had restored its former 56-hour weeks by June 2021.

“Our numbers took a major hit during COVID,” he said, but “they’ve been trending back upwards.”

McCue said Sunday hours were initially cut during the Prop 13 crisis in the late 1970s, but returned in 2000. Currently, the A. K. Smiley Public Library is open four hours on Sundays. Hourly traffic is “almost identical to other days,” he said.

Their biggest days are Tuesdays, McCue said, because of story time events.

“A growing part of library services, and I’m sure Riverside will be the same, is programs,” he said, and the library’s evening hours are offered in part so people can come by after work.

Looking ahead, McCue said there are no plans for changes to library hours, and though “we’d love to have evening hours on Thursdays at some point,” that likely won’t be in the cards until the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the four city of San Bernardino public libraries are closed on Sundays and Fridays, but open 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Inland Empire’s county library systems differ greatly in their hours.

Riverside County’s 35 libraries — not counting its two mobile vans — are open anywhere from three to seven days a week, and about 10 locations are open Sundays.

Heidi Dolamore, vice president of library operations for Library Systems and Services, which operates the Riverside County Library System, said Friday that county libraries open on Sundays include those in Cathedral City, Corona, Perris, Temecula and Menifee.

The county is working on adjusting library hours, Dolamore said.

Library attendance figures are analyzed to find traffic patterns, which vary from library to library and from season to season, she said. For example, some libraries see an increase in guests on weekday mornings, when libraries offer story time events, while weekends see a spike of busy families.

A majority of San Bernardino County libraries are open five days a week and close on Fridays and Sundays, though a handful are also open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays. Four — the Chino Hills James S. Thalman Branch, Fontana Lewis Library & Technology Center, Hesperia Branch and Loma Linda Branch — are open Sundays, according to the website.

San Bernardino County library officials did not respond to questions about library hours.