CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is putting out a call for volunteers, hoping it can recruit enough help to extend operating hours at branches in four suburbs.

The volunteers are being sought, library officials say, so branches in Cornelius, Davidson, Matthews and Mint Hill can remain open longer than the current 32-hour, four-week schedule each week.

The library system was forced to cut operating hours after its budget was slashed by county commissioners for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The volunteer recruitment effort is part of an agreement reached between the library and governments of the towns, in which the towns would provide additional funding for the library system.

Library officials say they hope to double the number of overall volunteer hours. During the past fiscal year, they say, 908 volunteers provided 25,200 hours of service. Librarian Michael Lambert, who has experience recruiting library volunteer help in Columbia and on the West Coast, has been selected to work with library volunteer coordinator Chauna Wall to head the effort.

Volunteers are a valuable resource for the library, but of course, we do not expect them to work 40 hours a week, like our full-time staff, Lambert said.

He said the goal is to ask volunteers to commit to at least two hours a week for six months.

If we can get that level of commitment from our volunteers who qualify, we might be able to supplement our current staffing and possibly extend some of the library hours that were lost due to budget cuts, he said.

Library officials said a seven-day recruiting campaign that started July 9 in Matthews netted 50 volunteer applications.

Prospective volunteers must be at least 14 years old and complete a criminal background check. Applications are available online through the public library s website or in person.

Volunteer training

Here is a schedule of volunteer training sessions already scheduled for Matthews, Cornelius and Davidson.

Matthews: recruitment through Aug. 6. Orientation sessions (mandatory) are 4-6 p.m. Aug. 16; 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 19.

Cornelius: recruitment through Aug. 13. Orientation sessions (mandatory) are 4-6 p.m. Aug. 23; 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 26.

Davidson: Orientation sessions (mandatory) are 4-6 p.m. Aug. 2; 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 5.

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