D.C. Public Library Weighs Impact of Budget Cuts

D.C. Public Library Weighs Impact of Budget Cuts

The District of Columbia Public Library is weighing the potential impact of its 2009 budget, which calls for the elimination of 74 unfilled staff positions from FY2008, a 14% reduction in its workforce. Adopted in June by the city council, the new budget may require all the city’s libraries to reduce hours, but neither layoffs nor suspension of a years-long capital-improvement project are anticipated.

DCPL Director Ginnie Cooper told American Libraries July 29 that “no library staff will lose their jobs as a result of the elimination of these positions. We have held more than enough vacancies to accommodate the reductions,” she explained. “In fact, some of the existing vacancies will be filled this fiscal year.” Cooper said the reduction of full-time employees will be taken proportionally throughout the system. She also noted that the staff is currently maintaining service hours through “lots and lots of overtime.”

Because 71% of the library staff works in public service, Cooper expects that Friday closings may be necessary at neighborhood libraries and at the central Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library—with the neighborhood libraries losing 15 hours per week and the main library losing 16. DCPL also anticipates closing its five 900-square-foot kiosk libraries, which have been open only weekdays and were established as temporary service points in the early 1970s. “Use is very low—the busiest kiosk circulates less than 25% of the least-busy neighborhood library—and the buildings are inefficient and expensive to heat and cool,” Cooper explained. “That would account for 11 or 12 positions.”

“Nobody meant to hurt the library,” Cooper asserted, pointing out that in fact the FY09 budget is up by $16,000 over FY08. The problem is that cost increases have outpaced it, and it would take $2.05 million to make the budget whole. Until about a week before sending a July 24 memo to staff explaining the situation, “we had anticipated that additional funding would be made available to the library” to bring it up to 2008 levels and absorb those cost increases. “This still might happen,” she added hopefully. “If not, the changes go into effect October 1.”

Richard Huffine, president of the Federation of Friends of the D.C. Public Library, sent an e-mail plea July 28 urging recipients to “appeal to the district council to find the $2 million that will avoid this calamity.”

Posted on July 30, 2008. Discuss.