The union that represents Los Angeles Public Library workers has mounted a campaign to stave off an anticipated reduction in LAPL’s workforce over five years. As of early March, the FY2010 plan to help narrow a municipal deficit of $212 million hinged on the early retirement of 145 library employees and the elimination of 110 unfilled full-time positions from LAPL’s staff of 1,100. Roy Stone, president of the Librarians Guild local of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, explained the situation March 3 in a radio interview on KPFK's Uprising show (MP3 file) that officials are also eyeing layoffs of 120 FTE library workers as the first part of a city council–mandated 4,000-person reduction in force, as well as the possibility that LAPL would have to return to the general fund between $10 and $30 million in light of a projected FY2011 budget gap of $485 million.
Estimating that a payback would halve staffing by laying off another 200 LAPL workers, Stone cautioned, “We can’t keep the doors open now without going to another library to borrow somebody when there isn’t enough staff.” The system’s 72 branches are already closed Friday mornings to accommodate a 3.5-hour furlough imposed on all staff for every two-week pay period in FY2010.
Touting library service as “the most inexpensive crime prevention that the city provides,” Stone went on to laud young-adult librarians who steer at-risk youth “off the criminal path” by connecting with teens. “If we’re going to cut that, the mayor is going to have to hire more and more police,” he added, predicting that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would unwittingly “bankrupt the city both culturally and spiritually.”
Besides taking to the airwaves, library advocacy efforts include the establishment of a Save the Library website and Facebook page to grow a grassroots pushback against the city administration. Organizers were encouraging library boosters to keep up the pressure at city-council meetings and budget hearings at least until a formal FY2011 budget is unveiled in April. Advocates are also being urged to make themselves visible at mayoral events: Some 50 people held a candlelight vigil outside Mayor Villaraigosa’s residence February 25, with another protest planned there for March 4 during a mayoral reception for Hollywood celebrities in anticipation of the upcoming Oscar awards ceremony slated for March 7.