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What’s new at the Napa County Library this summer? At the downtown Napa branch, it’s Sunday hours.

Visitors to the county’s main library in downtown Napa can check out books, music and movies – or peruse magazines and surf the web – from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, restoring a seven-day schedule that fell victim to budget cuts in 2010.

On the second weekend of Sunday library hours on Coombs Street, about two dozen people at a time dotted the desks and stuffed chairs of the carpeted main reading room – catching up with weekend newspapers, poring through art books or, like Steve Nunes, combing through a display of DVDs.

“It’s pretty neat – the conversation I had with my wife was ‘Are you sure they’re open on Sunday?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s on the website,’” said Nunes, a 21-year Napa resident.

“We used to come here quite often when the kids were still in school. That’s kind of why I’m back here again – I’m in school again,” he quipped, referring to the nursing degree he was slated to earn from Oakland’s Samuel Merritt University in three weeks.

Though Nunes was sifting through dozens of plastic cases containing all manner of movies, his was not a search for a night’s light entertainment but for the French film “Amour” – a tale of an elderly couple he said illustrated lessons that would guide his approach to caring for seniors in the future.

At a window-side desk several yards away, Silvia Mendoza was engrossed in a different sort of study – for an exam to be licensed as a biologist by the state Department of Food and Agriculture. The afternoon sun illuminated the textbook, note paper and calculator before her as she readied for her test on Monday.

“I hadn’t been here for a long, long time, but I needed a different setting and I saw the (new) hours on their website,” she said, grateful to find a Sunday refuge more conducive to concentrating than her home or a Starbucks.

The return of seven-day-a-week access to books, music and movies began July 7, on the first Sunday of the Napa County fiscal year. The library hired six part-time employees to staff the main library on Sunday, with the new staff members also assigned to the American Canyon and Calistoga branches on other days, according to library director Danis Kreimeier.

Entering a library building decked with balloons and offering free cookies, 184 people passed through the doors of the Napa branch and checked out 330 items during its four-hour schedule, including 90 who visited the children’s area, Kreimeier said Tuesday. (Attendance totaled 383,187 at the main library and 490,777 for all branches for the year that ended in June.)

“Half the people who came used the children’s rooms so I think this will be very important to people with families,” Kreimeier said. “As soon as school gets going (in August), we’ll see an increase (in Sunday visitation). … It’s going to build; I think people are just discovering it now. It’ll be interesting to come back in late September, when homework is really happening and see what the change is then.”

Kreimeier described the decision to limit Sunday operations to a half-day as a way for the library system to stay within its means, even with more cash from the county. “We want it to be sustainable; the worst thing we could do is open it and then have to shut it next year,” she said.

Napa is not the only city where avid readers will have more opportunities to borrow books. In addition to restoring Sunday hours to the main library, the new half-billion-dollar county budget that took effect July 1 provides funding to open branches in American Canyon and Calistoga on Mondays, while the reading room in Yountville has added Friday service. (The St. Helena Public Library is not part of the county network and is operated separately by the city.)

Extended hours for the four libraries will cost $271,000 over the next year, county officials told the Board of Supervisors in June.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.