A popular library program that was put on hold will be back in about two weeks, according to interim Merced County Librarian Diane Satchwell.
Read with a Tail Wagging Tutor, a program that allowed children to read to dogs, was stopped in February after the departure of two staff members, Satchwell said.
“I had to reassign someone to another library and another person is on leave, so it was even more difficult to try to provide a staff person at that desk,” she said. “Because we lost the two staff and didn’t have someone to sit at the desk, it wasn’t the program that all of us wanted it to be. It really gave us an opportunity to fine-tune some things.”
Satchwell added that one of the volunteers who brought in her dog also left around the same time, but is planning to return.
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The program has been around for about four years and has been a huge hit with parents and children. A furry Chihuahua named Yoda, along with an Australian shepherd named Mr. Gunny, took turns having kids read to them each week. They are certified therapy dogs and have received extensive training, officials said.
Yoda’s owner Kathleen Campbell said she stopped coming in February when the program was placed on hold, but said she’s looking forward to bringing her seven-pound pooch back to the library.
“The last time that I took him they said they had canceled all the programs and didn’t know when they would return,” Campbell said. “But I finally touched base with Diane (Satchwell) today and she said they are in the process of training people and Yoda will come back.”
The move to halt the program came just weeks before the Board of Supervisors approved a major overhaul of the county’s library system. The supervisors voted to close four small library branches and replace them with a Bookmobile, as well as reduce hours at some locations and add Saturday hours to others.
During the March 25 board meeting, Satchwell said the changes were critical in sustaining the library system, which would lose nearly $1 million in funding from the now-dissolved redevelopment agency.
County spokesman Mike North said there’s been no major change in the number of library volunteers, but library officials want to evaluate how the programs work with the new plan of service.
“With staffing being as tight as it is, it’s a good time to step back and evaluate the program and see where it would best fit in,” North said. “The program hasn’t been canceled. There is no intention to not bring it back.”
Satchwell said the library’s storytime programs were also placed on hold, but were brought back earlier this month. She estimates the Read with a Tail Wagging Tutor will maintain its regular hours when it returns.
The program was held every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Merced County Library, 2100 O St. in Merced.