There has been some confusion about exactly what our group of supporters is opposing, what we're suggesting and where we stand.
To quote today's Press Telegram Editorial, "Let's get facts straight."
Yes let's. Let's start talking from the same page. Let's be perfectly clear on what this is all about. We've heard that the plan to close Main is "fiscally responsible," and stops sinking "operational overhead costs" into a facility that's "outdated," "dilapidated" and "hardly used."
Let's address each claim we've heard one by one, and try to simplify the issue.
1. THE CITY CLAIMS:
The Main Library must be closed due to the state of the building, which includes seismic, piping and leak issues.
OUR RESPONSE: We've not seen ANY public document stating that the Main Library is "condemned" for any health and safety reason. There is nothing that says this building HAS to be shut NOW for health and safety reasons. There are seismic reports that City Hall is in worse shape, and yet there is no plan to immediately shut that building. Under the Freedom of Information Act, we have placed a formal public information request to obtain copies of any documents having to do with the state of the building. We'll let you know what we hear.
2. THE CITY CLAIMS:
The Main Library would take $10 Million dollars to fix.
OUR RESPONSE: This convenient number so easily quoted by the Mayor, the City Manager and the Press is actually the highest price for fixing Main Library. Last summer, the Department of Public Works put out a report that recommended three alternatives for fixing Main. The one they recommended, which would have addressed seismic issues and piping, was THREE MILLION DOLLARS. The least expensive option, which would have addressed piping issues was $800,000. Interestingly enough the item was "pulled" from the City Council agenda, never voted on, and in the meeting supporters had with Pat West, he admitted that the money that was set aside for that proposal "went away" to deal with the massive overspending issues.
3. THE PRESS REPORTS:
Hardly anyone uses Main Library anyway.
FACT. In the fiscal year for 2007, 459,880 visits occurred at Main Library. Where does that number come from? From Main Library gate exit counts. (A machine that counts the number of people exiting the library.) And they aren't counted twice, only when they leave. (And no, staff takes another door.) Hardly a small figure. We've heard arguments that those are school children being "bussed in" and we can "bus them to ANY library." Local third graders DO take field trips to see City Hall and the Main Library in order to learn about city government and city resources. They come to Main because it's the best library, the largest, has the best collection and has enough space and a story theater for the kids. But we're talking about roughly 1,200 kids a year for that specific program. So that still leaves a HUGE number of visitations to Main. Real people, all different ethnicities, income levels and zip codes from all over the Long Beach, who use the resources at Main to help them with school, life, work and even the pure joy of browsing the stacks and reading a good book.
4. THE CITY CLAIMS:
The Main Library isn't a "Core Service" and its services could easily be absorbed by extending hours at other branches and moving books.
OUR RESPONSE: The Main Library is 132,000 square feet and houses 464,000 items. In comparison, the average size of the branches (other than the new Mark Twain) is 7,500 square feet and each has a collection 1/10 the size. All of the eleven branches have a total COMBINED collection of 541,000 items. There would be no physical space for more books, and the branches are already struggling with overcrowding. To our knowledge, the City conducted no formal analysis or planning to see if this solution was even viable.
1. We are strongly opposed to "shuttering" Main Library, with ANY "gap in services." We feel that the City Council should not take such a drastic step to balance the budget without a well thought out plan for how services will continue in the interim.
2. We are not trying to SAVE the Main Library building. We are VERY supportive and excited about the potential for a new Main Library! However, concrete plans for a new building should be in place and (land purchased, architect plans, etc,) BEFORE we CLOSE the current Main Library.
3. We don't believe that the City's recommendation took into account the real impacts and all the data available from the Department of Library Services. The recommendation does not consider the true nature of the operations and the internal efficiencies for the way the library system works.
4. Closing down a Main Library in a city of half a million people (the 5th largest in the State) is an outrage! It shows a complete disregard for the vital role a library plays in meeting the needs of our community. It's appalling that the library fell this low on the City's list of priorities. No one would dream of "shuttering" City Hall, the fire station downtown, or the police headquarters for an "indefinite time" with a "gap in service for several years" while a "plan is created" to deal with the building. It just doesn't make sense.
We hope to see as many of you as possible at the budget hearing meetings in the City Council Chambers at 3:30PM.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12th 3:30PM
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19th 3:30PM