Rows of books and access to computers may soon be harder for some Merced County residents to find. Four library branches are slated to close April 12th, including the George Library in south Merced.
One woman who did not want to be identified says it's a sad loss for local families.
"This is an area of Merced that needs everything it has. So it's just losing more resources that need to be here."
The Cressey, south Dos Palos, and Stevinson branches are also set to close next month. But county officials say those communities will soon be served by a traveling bookmobile. They're also planning to adjust the hours at other branches to make them more user friendly.
Merced County Spokesperson Mike North said, "The whole philosophy behind this is to really provide better services for the people of Merced County by providing more outreach and bringing the services to them."
The board of supervisors approved the changes Tuesday after an extensive study by the county librarian. The re-organization is expected to maintain the library system's $2.76 million budget. That's an important point as the county prepares for a potential multi-million dollar deficit.
"Right now our projected deficit is about $9 million," said North. "That's a very preliminary number at this point. We expect that to change and hopefully come down a little bit."
North says several expenses are adding up for the year ahead, including increased retirement and health care costs, plus the end of furloughs and pay cuts that started in 2012. The drought is also raising concerns about potential ag-related job losses.
"That's a significant part of our local economy, and if that's not there it will impact the budget moving forward, especially next year," North said.
The board of supervisors is expected to hear the proposed budget in June, and a final budget should be approved by late August.