By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — For the first time in more than a decade, the city’s library opened its doors on Sunday — providing homework help to students and making museum passes and community meeting rooms available to the public.
Sunday library-goers can use a range of services, including print resources and computers.
A city budget crisis in 2003 led to staffing cuts and the elimination of Sunday hours. At the time, the library was under the threat of losing its state certification due to cuts in programs and services it was forced to make.
Mayor James Fiorentini said $2.4 million in special state aide secured by state Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, allowed the city to finally reopen the library on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
At a ribbon-cutting last Sunday to celebrate the start of the new library hours, a moment of silence was held in memory of Dempsey’s father James Dempsey, who died Sept. 17 at age 84 after a period of declining health. James Dempsey, a life-long Haverhill resident and Korean War veteran, drove the library’s Bookmobile for 26 years until he retired in 1998.
The library will remain open on Sundays through May 18, with exception of holidays, before closing for the summer.
”The money will be spent on numerous projects, but opening the library on Sundays is a direct result of the funding,” the mayor said of the state money. “Adding this day at the library will give students, families and working people the advantage of its resources seven days a week.”
Library Director Carol Verny said she specifically wanted to open the library on Sunday during the school year.
“This is typically what libraries do as kids have homework assignments and parents work and might not be able to visit the library during the week,” Verny said. “Sunday is often the busiest day of the week at libraries across the country.”
Previously, the library was open the minimum 63 hours per week over six days, a state requirement based on the size of the community, Verny said.
”People are very understanding that we haven’t been able to do a lot of things over the past decade that we would have liked to have done,” the mayor said. “We’ll see how it works out and, if we get a lot of people, we’ll see what we can do to keep it going. But I can’t make any promises.”
Verny said the library will have five or six staff members working on Sundays and they will be supplemented by a temporary staffing service run by the Massachusetts Library System.
She said her staff volunteered for the Sundays they wanted to work.
Sunday services at Haverhill library
• Homework help for students
• Passes to museums in the region available
• Meeting room use
• Access to the print, ebook and e-resource collections