Rallies, Rallies, Everywhere as Final Budget Votes Loom

June 9, 2010

July 1 is fast approaching, bringing a new fiscal year for many libraries around the country. However, that’s the only certainty in many communities as advocates tenaciously continue their campaigns to keep as many library facilities open and staffed as possible.

  • The libraries of New York City, Brooklyn, and Queens are rallying supporters on the front pages of their websites and elsewhere online to keep public attention on a threatened $81-million cut to the three systems that would close more than a dozen branches, drastically reduce service hours, and eliminate the jobs of hundreds of library workers. While library administrators continue making their case to elected officials in public testimony and behind closed doors, grassroots advocates have organized a 24-hour “We Will Not Be Shushed” read-in from 5 p.m. Eastern June 12 to 5 p.m. June 13 on the steps of Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library.
  • State legislators in New Jersey have been indicating their support for restoring at least some of the $10.4 million in state aid to public libraries that Gov. Chris Christie has removed from the FY2011 budget. "It's still early in the dance," Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said in the June 6 Newark Star-Ledger of negotiations that are anticipated to culminate in a budget passed by June 24 for the governor's signature.
  • Although the board of the Boston Public Library approved the closure of four libraries in April as a less draconian solution to the city’s fiscal woes than shuttering up to 10, the library Friends remain determined to keep as many of the targeted four facilities open as possible. More than 200 library lovers gathered June 3 in front of city hall to express opposition to the closures, and heard from several sympathetic elected officials. “We’re going to say no, they don’t have to close,” Massachusetts State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Suffolk) told advocates outside the building. Inside, Council member Mark Ciommo asserted to library CEO Amy Ryan, “We can find a way to keep these libraries open,” according to the June 4 Boston Globe.
  • As library leaders at Charlotte (N.C.) Mecklenburg Library prepare to close three branches June 19 and lay off at least 100 workers, administrators continue to tally one-time commitments from area funding authorities in hopes of plugging a $17.7-million hole in the library’s FY2011 budget. The city of Charlotte has pledged $1.4 million, contingent on at least four county municipalities pitching in as well. In turn, Mecklenburg County has voted to restore $3.5 million of the 45.5% it has slashed, so long as trustees consider consolidating within county government services such as IT and human resources. That leaves officials scrambling to find more cost savings and cash infusions before June 24, when the library board must approve a final budget. In the meantime, library spokesperson Cordelia Anderson told American Libraries, “214 staff have received pre-notification letters, and will learn later in June whether they are actually being laid off.”
  • Los Angeles Public Library workers and patrons are maintaining their months-long effort to stave off layoffs, closings, and reduced hours. Two days after the City Council approved a budget June 6 that cuts library revenue 11%, the Librarian’s Guild, which represents LAPL workers, posted a news alert entitled “Still Waiting—But Not Passively.” The update assures readers that “negotiations are still going on” to restore funding and retain jobs.
  • The Siskiyou County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote June 15 on its FY2011 budget, which is $3.7 million shy of balancing. County Administrator Brian McDermott has recommended closing the 11-branch system in order to save $712,000.
  • The May 18 defeat of a measure to create a library district in Hood River County, Oregon, has made the June 30 closure of the area’s three libraries inevitable. Officials had gone to voters after the county commission agreed in September 2009 to zero out the libraries’ entire $732,000 budget as of FY2011. However, a June 8 brainstorming session to reinstate services drew 125 people determined to find an alternative fiscal model. “Whatever you do, don’t sell the building,” Hood River County Library Foundation President Virginia Hosford said in the June 9 Hood River News, referring to the only stand-alone library facility in the county of some 20,000 residents.



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