A friend who is a children's librarian at one of the nearby branches says she no longer has a budget for books. And the librarian at my nearest branch says that, except for a small stipend they were were given in February, they have not been able to purchase any materials since December of last year.
Los Angeles has a huge library system, housed in some architecturally amazing buildings. It would be a shame not to protect, nurture, and grow the system.
The city's librarians and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles have created Save the L.A. Public Library, an advocacy group for libraries. According to the Library Foundation and Save the L.A. Public Library's websites, here's the background:
Faced with a citywide budget shortfall, elected officials are proposing deep cuts to the Library department budget that will result in:
1. Reducing the book budget by $2 million This is a 22% cut from last year’s book budget, and a 33% cut from two years ago.
2. Closing the eight regional branch libraries on Sundays, due to a reduction of staff positions.
3. “Short-term layoffs” of Library staff, which may further reduce library service.
And they've also put together what I think is a convincing list of reasons to fight the cuts:
The proposed cuts to the Library budget come at a time when:They've convinced me! I'm going to write the mayor's office now!
People want more books, not less. The Library was unable to fill more than 300,000 requests for books last year, because the book budget has been cut 33% over the last two years to $7.7 million for the Central Library and 71 branches. The Library serves the largest population in the U.S., yet for per capita book spending, the Library now ranks 23rd among the 25 public libraries serving populations of over 1 million. The Library has only 1.6 books for each resident of Los Angeles.
People want the library to be open more hours, not less. The Library experienced record use in three key areas: more than 16 million visited the Library; more than 15 million books were checked out; and the electronic resources were used more than 110 million times. In a 2005 survey, keeping libraries open longer hours was among the top three requests from library users. Libraries must be open on Sundays, not closed as proposed in the budget, to meet the record demand for library books, computers and programs.
The Library gives kids a real alternative to gangs. At a time when gang intervention is among the city’s top priorities, the Library provides anti-gang education programs, workshops that help kids explore educational and career opportunities, peer groups that build self-esteem, and more.
Supporting education means supporting the Library. The schools can’t do it alone, that’s why the Library provides children with books, computers, homework help and libraries that are open when schools are closed. The Library also provides the largest after-school program in the city designed to build literacy skills in children and keep them reading outside the classroom. With more than 70% of LAUSD third- and seventh- grade students scoring below the national average in reading, and nearly 90% of eighth- grade students scoring at or below the basic level in writing, the Library’s resources are more critical than ever.
A strong Library is good for business. An educated workforce is essential to successful business. Yet more than 50% of the Los Angeles area’s working age population suffer from low literacy skills. To battle the devastating personal and social effects of illiteracy, the Library operates free Adult Literacy Centers in 19 libraries citywide and provides self-tutorials on its Web site. The Library’s free collection of books, databases, education-support programs and other resources provide all people with the tools they need to succeed.
I'd love to hear what you--and especially you librarians or library studies students--think about this library crisis...