Sunday hours are coming to the San Pablo Library for a six-month trial that could become permanent if usage approaches what the branch sees the rest of the week.

The additional hours — 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 7 — will give area students one fewer excuse for not completing major weekend assignments.

Library backers convinced the San Pablo City Council last week to spend $11,000 for the trial because they are sure that patronage will be strong enough to justify continuing the new hours.

"We have an incredible demand for our library services," said Heidi Dolamore, branch manager. "We have over 2,000 people come each week, and most of the time all of the seats are full."

The bustling branch is in a former supermarket space at the International Marketplace as part of what is known as the San Pablo Community Resource Center. The library is across the street from Contra Costa College and less than a mile from Helms Middle School. Richmond High School, just outside the city limits, is a little more than a mile away.

"Sunday is a great day for students to come to the library to work on those assignments due on Monday morning," Dolamore said. "It's also a great day for families."

Currently, the closest county branch open Sundays is in Hercules, more than seven miles away.

Orlando Ramos, former principal at Richmond High, joined county librarian Anne Cain in speaking before the City Council in support of the additional day.

Students aren't the only patrons at the San Pablo branch, which Dolamore said also attracts users from outside the city. In June the branch saw a 30 percent increase in materials checked out, compared with the same time last year.

Demand for other services is constant as well.

"We have 10 computers with online access that are in use almost all the time we're open," Dolamore said. "In fact, we have the highest computer usage rate of all the libraries in the county, and use is increasing."

The idea to make San Pablo one of only a handful of branches with Sunday hours was raised when Dolamore, who came to the branch as librarian six months ago, met with Cecilia Valdez, the city's representative on the county library commission and a candidate for City Council.

Budgeting and other logistics were worked out at the county level, and the idea of jointly funding Sunday hours was brought to city officials and "worked its way to the top of the priority list," said City Manager Brock Arner. The precedent is hardly new, as the city and the county library have paired since 2005 to fund Tuesday night and all-day Saturday hours at the branch.

"It's not a big money issue," Arner said, noting that the cost to the city would be $22,000 if funding is extended to a full year.

"I'm hoping people use it," Arner said. "I think it's an indication of educational success."

Reach Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com.

san pablo library
Starting Sept. 7, the San Pablo Library will be open six days a week, closed Thursday, in the International Marketplace, 2300 El Portal Drive in San Pablo. For hours, programs and other details, call 510-374-3998 or visit www.contra-costa.lib.ca.us.