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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The importance of libraries in Long Beach

Libraries Work Because We Do!
Libraries Work Because We Do! (Photo credit: circulating)

Look carefully at the Mayor’s budget. It does not restore one cut to the City’s library system. It does not return librarians who were replaced by self-service check out systems. It does not replenish the materials budget which was slashed from $1.8 million in FY 2008 and is now down to $677,000.

It pretends to be an appropriate size budget for a library system that serves a population of 450,000. But through slashing and cutting and intimidation of staff who are afraid to speak out about what has been done to the library system in Long Beach, this budget helps feeds into the myth promulgated by the Mayor about the inevitable demise of libraries. After all, he told the Los Angeles Times that because of the internet, libraries have become smaller.

The library budget totals only 3.1 percent of the general fund. The FY 2014 budget proposes spending one-time funds for the north library furniture and books but does not budget one penny for staff. Small funds are proposed for tables to plug in lap tops but no funds are proposed to upgrade the wiring necessary to feed electricity to the lap tops. Minimal funding is proposed for some roof repairs – but details of which libraries to be repaired are missing. No funding is proposed to fix and repair all of the branch libraries that suffer from infrastructure neglect.

If we allow these cuts to remain and the library system to be diminished it is because we haven’t made it clear to our elected officials that libraries are more than a book-lending service – especially during bad economic times and high unemployment. Libraries add to the city’s economic growth and vitality by providing access to information and research, literacy programs, and spaces for reading, relaxing and working. For some, libraries are a safety net where they can access the internet.

Our libraries are providing numerous resources in various forms. We need to educate our elected officials what would will be lost if adequate funding is not provided for our libraries. Perhaps then, as one supporter of libraries wrote: “they will see a future for the library that is worth funding and avoid the folly of penny wise and pound foolish decisions that would withdraw this key service from the public.”
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