Gwinnett County's public libraries will close two days a week, reduce hours on other days and cut programs.
The moves, announced on the library system's Web site, are the result of budget cuts the county instituted last month after a tax rate increase failed, according to library director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam.
Each of the 14 branch libraries will cut operations by 28 hours a week. Beginning Aug. 9, branches will be closed Sunday and Monday, then open for shorter hours the remainder of the week.
Although municipalities around the metro area are seeking new ways to cut costs, the announcement still took some patrons by surprise.
"They're taking away from our youth," said Amanda Phillips of Lawrenceville, who was visiting the Norcross branch library Wednesday with her children. "I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old and it's sad because this is a treat for them."
Victor Terrill of Norcross echoed education concerns.
"I don't like it because it interferes with children's education," he said. "Some people need to come here and do research, especially children."
Terrill, a comedian who runs a ministry to help disadvantaged youth, said he always encourages children to use libraries and read books to open up their world.
Monica and Noel Roblero, students at Meadowcreek High School, said they and other students will suffer the consequences of the cutbacks.
"With school starting," said Monica, "we sometimes just need to do research here."
Noel, who volunteers at the Norcross branch, said he always sees a large number of children at the library.
"Sometimes during weekends," he said, "you need access to the library if you don't have the Internet at home."
Other initiatives among library cuts include an 8 percent reduction in materials purchases, eliminating security officers and shelvers and curtailing programs, such as the summer reading sessions, author events and English conversation studies. October's Gwinnett Reading Festival has also been suspended.
The reorganization represents about $1.7 million in cuts to the library budget, said library spokeswoman Michelle Long.
"Even with the cuts," Long said, "we're still doing the very best we can to service our patrons."
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.