Weaver Bolden Branch library extending hours again after weathering cuts
By WVUA Digital Reporter Ben Smith
TUSCALOOSA – Marti Ball remembers how people would pull on the doors of the Weaver Bolden Branch of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, expecting it to be open on a Tuesday or Thursday as it used to be.
They’d stand there confused for a moment, maybe yanking the handle once or twice more before turning around and walking away.
Ball remembers the pain of not being there for residents who rely on the facility and its librarians for access to books, computers and software, databases and other major resources.
“You know those people needed something in that moment, and you’re not providing it,” said Ball, who has served as Director of Outreach for the Tuscaloosa Public Library system for years. “It hurts us as librarians not to be able to do that in that moment.”
In October, the Tuscaloosa Public Library system drastically reduced operating hours across its three locations after budget cuts of around 40% were implemented by the city of Tuscaloosa. Those cuts came because of what library officials said was “(compensating) for annual government funding levels that have not kept pace with inflation.”
If more funding didn’t come, there were fears that the system could close for good and leave Tuscaloosans without access to the hundreds of necessary resources the library provides. Residents visit TPL for more than checking out books; they access research materials, meeting spaces, reading programs for all ages, movies and audiobooks, computers and even resources like a seed library and puzzle swaps.
But visitors to the Weaver Bolden Branch won’t have to tug uselessly on the building’s doors on Tuesdays and Thursdays anymore, as operating hours are once again available for 44 hours Monday through Friday.
The renewed schedule comes after extensive efforts from the Tuscaloosa Public Library Board of Trustees, which lobbied the Tuscaloosa City Council for funding increases. That request was approved in late April.
Ball said this is a major win for Tuscaloosa County’s residents, but especially for those who live in West Tuscaloosa.
“There are so many little neighborhoods around here that are within walking distance (of the Weaver Bolden Branch),” she said. “And the access that we provide to computers, to books and to other informational sources is just so important. It’s an area or building where you feel everybody’s welcome, and it’s a safe space people can come in and do what they need to do.”
Doubling the branch’s operating hours means residents don’t not have to travel across town for access a printer or a computer.
In addition, students attending Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School across the street from the library can continue using the space for homework or studying.
“Librarians literally have everything you need, or they know how to find it,” said Kat Baxter, a third-grade teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary who has long frequented the Weaver Bolden Branch. “A library is invaluable to any community. It’s a space where people can come use computers or fax machines. Anything they don’t have primary access to in their own homes, can be accessed here at the library. And that’s the purpose of a library, to provide things to the citizens that they don’t necessarily have, but should still have access to.”
The Weaver Bolden Branch, located at 2522 Lanier Ave. in Tuscaloosa, is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m.