Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where We Stand.

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plan to close Main is "fiscally responsible," and stops sinking "operational overhead costs" into a facility that's "outdated," "dilapidated" and "hardly used."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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

To conclude,

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.



Anonymous said...

FYI, the Long Beach Main Library is also the 2nd largest single library in the entire Los Angeles County....right behind the Los Angeles Public Library. Please remember the huge public campaign to restore that library after they had a devastating fire. The LAPL is now one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Let's make Long Beach's comparable!

jasmine said...

Thanks for outlining the issues and your arguments so clearly. Here here! We must not stand idly by and let OUR library be taken from us. We the people need to stand up and be counted and you have certainly made a good case showing the potholes in the city's budget plan. My only regret is that the city council meetings are held during the daytime when most people are working, like me. I imagine the city thinks most of us don't care and will just sit back helplessly and do nothing because "they" know best and we're just too stupid to know what's going on. Do they just want a stupid city? Maybe that's part of a plan to dumb down Long Beach by destroying all access to books, or free public services. I was appalled that there was no public protest over the demolishing of landmark Acres of Books. Lets not let our library go the same route.

tangarang said...

What can we do to help, other than write our coucil members? I am literally crying over the propsed closure (my local branch is just not sufficeint, either in hours or holdings...we need this library to stay open).

Look at what they were able to do in Santa Monica and Cerritos...apparently they like to read!

And yahoo Mr. Bradbury!!! please post his letter!

Anonymous said...

What major city in the U.S. has no main library? I don't know of one. Just like parks, a main library is expected in a major city, no matter how many or how few people use it. It would be an outrage if Long Beach has no main library. Don't close it, please.

Anonymous said...

(As Sent to City Hall)

I am vehemently against closing or relocating the Main Library. Main is one of the assets that makes Long Beach a world-class city.

Going to the library should not be like patronizing Amazon.com; being able to interface with all available library material in front of you provides a serendipitous experience that sums up what frequenting the library is all about. With its staggering collection of titles, Main enables for such an experience; the branches put together only have half of the city's library titles, and it is relatively rare when a title can only be found at a branch and not at Main.

Additionally, Main's physical location is part of Long Beach's character. This unique structure that melds with City Hall via the rooftop section of Lincoln Park (or what's left of that section of the park) and makes tremendous, creative use of subterranean space is part of our heritage as residents of Long Beach. It's not just some building.

Everything comes together in Main's current incarnation to make it the world-class library hub that it is, and in the process, helping to make Long Beach a world-class city. Look at it like this: not all world-class cities have a Queen Mary or Grand Prix, but they all have have outstanding central libraries. The library-going experiences that the public has enjoyed for decades at Main cannot be mitigated or duplicated at any branch, no matter how great the branches are or if they are open seven days a week.

Please find a creative way around this. Dig deeper in that budget. Pare down (temporarily - for a few years, if need be) days and hours at the branches and even at Main, but please reconsider shuttering or moving Main.

Anonymous said...

(CC: To Mayor)

Dear Mayor Foster,

I am outraged and disappointed. I find the project of shutting down the main library in Long Beach is nonsensical. The library in downtown Long Beach is a wonderful and useful city institution. The only public library that matches this wonderful institution is the New York Public Library. I have lived in Washington DC for thrirty years, and its disastrous, poor, public libraries do not compare with the LBPL. I spend several months a year in Long Beach, and I have witnessed the extraordinary service that the main libary offers to its patrons. The pretext of its inadequacy to resist eartquakes is simply that, a poor pretext. Make it safe, but do not close it for good. Your are repeating a classic mistake of underdeveloped societies: their destroy cultural institutions (for budgetary reasons and with political pretexts), and they never rebuild them. Long Beach, the State of California, and the US in general will be poorer without LBPL.

I urge you to reconsider this plan.

Anonymous said...

(As Sent to City Hall)

Here's a point you may not have thought about:

Libraries are one of the only public services that isn't justified by saying "It's good for business." It was conceived as purely for "the public good" .

Police, Fire, Roads,Water can show economic benefits, and in our greedy age are expected to. Parks & Libraries are only really intended to make people's lives better.

But Libraries outdo any other public service: they make better people.
Better informed, more rational, more skeptical, more curious and compassionate.

The city benefits from the improvement in a way that a road or firestation can't do.

Please help find a way to solve this problem. A leaky roof is terribly expensive but ... Libraries are special!

Anonymous said...

The budget concerns for the city of Long Beach is certainly a matter not understood by most -- but its effects are far-reaching for more than just the citizens of Long Beach. The Los Angeles Public Library faced similar budget cuts, but through community efforts and support, we brought the importance of a public library system to the forefront.

In a climate of video games, Internet and television saturation, public libraries are an even more valuable resource, not only in their usefulness, but in their symbolic principle as a haven for learning. Please don't take this away from the community of Long Beach, and don't close down the Main Library!

Anonymous said...

I am a third grade teacher at Stevenson Elementary School (515 Lime Ave). Our classes take walking field trips to the Main Library and I am always amazed at the sense of wonderment when the children walk in and see all the books....and even more wonderment when they find out they can actually check out these books. Our students do not have access to any other library, as most of our families do not have cars. It is challenging enough to get our poor working class parents to take their children to the library that is within walking distance, let alone to have to take 2 or 3 buses to another one. If the Main Library is closed we are all but guaranteeing that this population of underprivleged children will lose all access to the one place downtown(other than school) that can be their safe haven. Our students are already short shrifted by our school district. We are a run down school with a playground about a fith the size of eastside schools. Our parents do not have money to enroll their kids in soccer, Little League, karate, and dance classes. These kids see nothing but the streets of downtown Long Beach and often do not know that there is another world beyond those streets. How can they aspire for anything better if they have no exposure to anything better? Also, with education budget cuts, we will not even have the same library services at our own school next year, so the kids will be thrown a double whammy. Mayor Foster states that he is a friend to the libraries. Yes, he is a friend to the libraries that middle and upper class children can frequent. My question is: Is he a friend to the underserved children of Long Beach who have no access to those libraries? Don't they deserve an equal opportunity in just one area of their lives?

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to believe that this proposal could have even been suggessted. The Main library has been a part of the Long Beach community for as long as I remember. Not only will you be taking away a great source of learning for all children and adults, but you will be closing down a great community outreach center. The Main library offers so many afterschool programs for children and young adults that I do not think they will find a better alternative. I believe the Main library holds more things in there then just books, videos, and computers; it holds a sense of nostalgia. I remember walking into the library for the first time and thinking of all the great things I can read, learn, and touch. Please do not take away this maginificant building, it just cannot be replaced.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

To whom it may concern,

I am appalled at the suggestion of closing the Main Lbrary for an
undisclosed amount of time. We live on the Westside and frequent both our neighborhood library and the Main Library almost every week. Our trip to the Main Library is a treat for my children, we spend hours browsing through the books until it is time to check out. We also try to make the reading hours and crafts that are held there.

I do not want to go online to reserve my books to be sent to my
neighborhood library. I like to browse the books and pick up titles I might not otherwise know about.

There has to be another solution besides closing the Main Library.
Please revisit your options and try to find a solution that does not just affect the children that use the Main Library as their home base, but those of us that like to come down and browse the large collection of books, movies and CDs available.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Dear Mayor Foster,

I receive from colleagues and friends the alarming news
regarding your proposal to close down Long Beach's Main
Library, which -being now out of town- consider in
disbelief, not sure that this is truly a measure you are
seriously thinking to take in order to deal with the
city's financial predicaments.

A great international city like Long Beach, like any other
of its caliber, requires as a must a well-established and
provided, well-kept, open, always available, vital, main
library, just as it requires a city hall, main fire
fighting and police departments, good schools, a good
public university and community college. These are the
pillars of a great city, not dispensable, subject yes to
budgetary considerations, but for adjustments, not for
closing. Closing down any of these vitals would be like
amputating a main organ from the body of the city, ending
one of its history's chapters.

I am sure there are other, contingent means to raise the
$1.86 million which appears to be estimated would be saved
by amputating this vital organ of the city. For example,
raising a little parking fees, parking violations fines,
public transportation fees, or fees on entertainment
locals. No one of course would want this type of
increases, but they can be made contingent on the
balancing of the city budget and thus adopted on a
temporary basis; and in the last resort they would not be
the same as depriving the city from one of its essentials.

If anything, and for the sake of pursuing with vigor and
vision the development of the great city of Long Beach,
its Main Library should be rather subject of investment
priorities and expansion.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City hall)

Dear Mayor Foster and honored Councilpersons,

As the organizers of the recent SaveLAPL campaign, which helped
reverse a plan to cut the LA Public Library's budget for book
purchases and weekend hours, and as regular donors to the Long Beach
Public Library's fundraising auctions, we write to express our dismay
at the news that you are considering shuttering Long Beach's highly
trafficked Main Library.

The enormous public outcry that greeted the news of deep cuts to LA's
libraries came as a surprise to our Budget & Finance Committee, and
should give you pause as you consider following a similar path in an
adjacent community.

Libraries are so important to the psychic and intellectual health of
their communities, and closing them ought to be avoided at all costs.
The loss of your main branch even for a short time would cause untold
hardship to the people who most benefit from the free and open
exchange of information. Please reconsider and find the funding to
protect this essential resource of your city.

Anonymous said...

closing the the downtown library is a terrible idea; I hope we'll do whatever is necessary to save it.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I use the Main library as our branch because of the depth of its contents and its weekend hours; it enables us to utilize their magazine, media and design sections.

In fact, we consider the LB Main Library to be one of the finest either of us has enjoyed. Prior to moving to Long Beach, three years ago, neither of us had used a publoic library for years. We consider the Main Library one of the prime resources that makes downtown Long Beach so attractive to us. Its media department is the best we've ever seen.

Keep the Main Library Open!

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Dear Mayor:

I was born in Long Beach, and while I now live and work in Oregon, I take pride in my "roots" and visit the area whenever my travels take me to southern California.

I now live in Jackson County, southwest Oregon, infamous now as the county that shut down its entire library system "temporarily" as a cost savings measure. While the libraries did reopen about 7 months after closing, they are not the same system we enjoyed, and took for granted before:
- While closed our children had no access to books April through October as this was also a big part of the school library closure for summer break.
- While many people feel the Internet is a surrogate for books, the content of the Internet is often questionable and factually unrealiable. Not everyone has access to a home computer.
- During the "temporary" closure all branch librarians and clerks were fired from their jobs as a cost savings.
- Further costs savings measures converted the library operations from County management with County librarians and clerks to County management of a Contractor service for the operation of the Main and branches at radically reduced hours. If we want additional hours at any one of the branches the local community must come up with their own finances to request that service increase.

For our county libraries and your city libraries, requiring patrons to just go to another branch is often a financial burden for those who can least afford it. The price of gasoline makes further travel prohibitive to many. Does frequent public transportation pass each of your branches to give patrons the option of changing branches even on fixed or limited incomes? This was not a workable option for our Jackson County, Oregon library patrons.

I understand your concern for the cost to maintain the Main Branch, a building with so many problems. As I outlined above, what appeared to Jackson County, oregon as workable cost savings measures ended up being very harmful to the community both "temporarily" and in the long run. Please continue to keep the Main Branch open to the public and the librarians servicing the branches while you actively look for another building to transfer all services. If the current building is as bad as indicated then the search for a workable transfer site while building a new location should be an urgent quest.

Local branches, as well as the Main Library should remain open as they have the librarians who best know how to serve their local patrons. Please remember that libraries are more than computer terminals.

Thank you for considering my input.

Anonymous said...

I am outraged at the idea of shutting down the main library in Long Beach. The library in downtown Long Beach is a wonderful and useful city institution, that serves us all well. If repairs need to be made, they should be, but tearing down the library during a budget crisis such as this is, in my opinion, nonsensical. A good library, just like a good university, is easy to destroy and very difficult to build again.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Hello mayor. Your plan to close our cherished library is really, from a serious library patron's point of view, absolutely unconscionable. Its really just unbelievable bad news for people who appreciate books and learning. For cryin out loud, are you trying to take this city down? First Acres of Books, my beloved favorite store is being demolished. Then the main library? Its like Farenheit 451. What's wrong with this city? Are we to be completely dumbed down?

The main library is someplace I visit every week, maybe twice a week. I love going there on my lunch hour to get away from work. I walk in and am immediately refreshed knowing a world of discovery awaits and I can open a book and change my state of mind immediately. One needs new ideas to keep the mind alive, to keep it expanding and to change and grow. This is the people's resource and in a city the size of Long Beach, it should be mandatory to keep the downtown library open to encourage the city's population to continue to learn and better themselves.

You know, man does not live by bread alone but you could really fool me here in Long Beach because every time I turn around another bookstore is closing and another restaurant is being built. The Pike is such a wonder. Nothing but food down there. Is this just a fat town? What about food for the mind and soul?

The plan to expand branch libraries isn't going to cut it. You have to have the main facility with the large inventory to make it worth the visit. The little libraries just don't satisfy and the convenient location of downtown is unbeatable. Anyone can take the bus down there or the train as well as walk, bike or drive.

Please please don't close it. If for no other reason than to help our city stay smart, not fat.
Do we really have to beg to convince you to just do what's right?

Anonymous said...


The suggestion of closure of the main library for cost cutting is absolutely unacceptable.

The main library needs to be expanded and replaced as quickly as funding is developed and, yes, moved to a dry area that is not subterranean-but please look elsewhere to make cuts in costs that you feel are necessary.

There was a time when the City of Long Beach offered the best in recreation and leisure services, social services, and resources to develop performing and fine arts, music and dance.

Alas, that time has past. However, the one remaining jewel is the the myriad of projects, programs and services developed and delivered at the main library.

Please, please do not eliminate this most important center of access to learning, being, and thriving for all age groups in Long Beach.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Dear Mayor Foster and City Council:

A Basuto proverb says that “if a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has something of value to replace them.”

I first read this proverb in the introduction to a book by Robert Ruark, Something of Value. It was about the Mau Mau uprising. I read this book and many, many others through an early introduction of the public library into my life. I was taken to visit libraries before I can remember, and developed a love of reading and learning in part through these visits.

I haven’t seen the report of the safety of the Main building—and if the building is truly unsafe, not only must it be inaccessible to users, but also the fantastic musical archives, the microfilm collections, the first editions must be made safe. Many of us have already archived the memories of attending there, receiving help from the staff at the information desk, the children’s librarian taking time to find numbers of books on a topic for a child or a class, story times, finding a favorite lyric in the sheet music collection. Not to mention the ineffable smell of the halls and the books themselves. It’s difficult for me and for others who have used the Main Library as a learning center and a book selection to talk about its loss without getting emotional. It isn’t the idea of change—I couldn’t get emotional about a retail center being built either, unless of course another repository of literature is taken down to make way for it. And, of course, following that, it affects a lot of us when two of them are about to go in such close time periods. And, in both cases, if there’s an actual need to demolish them, so be it, but I haven’t heard of anything of value to replace them with.

Eleanor Schmidt mentioned the children and students living downtown who use the library as a resource—I believe that she made the comment that the Main Library is their local branch. A wonderful letter from Christee Kee (Press-Telegram, “Save the Library,” 7-28-08) beautifully exemplified this. A considerable number of disabled people also live downtown. Where will they go to escape. I don’t live downtown, but I’ve used the Main Library frequently to access the reference desk, the periodicals on microfilm and the children’s collection when I taught school. I have a writer friend who lives in Hollywood who specifically makes the trip down here for the music archives. The Main Library is not only the heart and soul of the system, but it’s also its brain, and you know what happens to the rest of the body when the brain stops functioning.

I imagine that all of you have been raised on libraries and value them as I do. Adding hours to the branch libraries is a nice move, but where does it leave the downtown residents and people who use it as a resource. Before you close this wonderful place, please find another location downtown for it. Long Beach has already forfeited enough of its character.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Mayor Foster, Council woman B. Lowenthal, Councilwoman S. Lowenthal,
Vice Mayor Lerch:

I am writing to strongly ask that you do not vote to approve any budget
that involves closing the Main Library without a real alternative in
place, not just a computer center.

My husband and I own a home in the 1st district and a small business in
the 2nd district. We are proud of living in downtown Long Beach and all
that it offers. We chose to work and live here because of the culture
and sense of community it offers. We love that we can walk to work, the
gym, our bank, shops and restaurants, the Art Walk, and the Main Public
Library. For this, we happily pay our personal taxes, corporate taxes,
and the [expensive!] business license each and every year. My husband
and I use the Main library all the time. In fact, I have two books
checked out now. When I go to the Main library, I see a wide range of
phenomenal people enjoying the facility. Young and old. Rich and poor.
Black, brown and white. Those with homes and those without. I’ve heard a
number of fascinating speakers in the library auditorium as well. It’s
always teeming with activity. It may not be the fanciest of libraries,
but it well-used and well-appreciated. I love it.

I do understand if the building is not safe and we need to consider
alternatives. No one wants library patrons and employees in an unsafe
building with structural/mold problems. But let’s have a real public
discussion about the issues and options. At a minimum, we first need to
have an alternate location with the same level of resources other
neighborhoods receive. A computer center is simply not acceptable. To be
honest, the argument that other neighborhoods will get longer library
hours isn't acceptable either, because it's at the cost of downtown Long
Beach community. The downtown Long Beach community pays taxes too and
it's our tax money we're talking about. We do have a say in what happens
to our community, whether it complicates your budget process or not. The
bottom line is that we want a library in our community. We do not think
this too much to ask. And I think you all know that it's the right thing
to do.

Anonymous said...

When I clicked on the Press-Telegram article on the proposed closure of the main Long Beach library, an accompanying ad featured the image of a set of scales, an instrument of balance. How appropriate! The issue is balance, as in budget, but on the scales of quality of life for Long Beach citizens, the loss of the services provided to the mental health of the community greatly outweighs any monetary gain from closing it.

I sincerely hope Mayor Foster can come up with another way to balance the Long Beach budget.

Anonymous said...

(As sent to City Hall)

Reading the Press-Telegram last Friday was quite a shock. Even if there are eleven branches, it doesn't mean Main isn't needed. I understand the pressure to cut back, and save money, but there must be better ways.

I've been in the library on Friday mornings. Even before they open you see school classes lined up outside, waiting for a visit at the library. They all come back with books in their hands. What will they do when Main is closed? Take away the joy of reading? Branches are nice, but they only have so much capacity.

Another thing, what happens to all the visitors of the Information Center with Disabilities? Do you really want to take away the opportunity of disabled residents to join in the fun of reading or getting the information they are looking for? Where will they go when Main is closed?

Based on the article there would be still something like a computer center somewhere in downtown Long Beach. Imagine the youth, which comes in surfing the internet on library computers. Lets see it like a shopowner: Once they are inside the shop/library, they might look around, and buy/borrow something. People, who usually don't come to libraries, might be re-introduced to books and magazines. Where do they go, what do they do, when Main is closed?

I'm sure, I'm not the only one suggesting to you, sincerely thinking about voting in favor of closing Main... Don't you think all these people are trying to tell you something? These days everybody is saving and cutting back, but it is a better plan to close Main ONLY when it is moving to the a new location, with a new building ready.

Please consider these thoughts, when you make your decision and vote. It's more than just a building, there are people who actually need the Main library open - not just a computer center.

Anonymous said...

I am totally opposed to closing the Main Library for all the reasons other correspondants have listed and for the reason that I doubt it will save much money if the administrative staff , special functions, and storage facilities are still there. Additional gas cost for ferrying books to all the branches can be expected. One big reason to oppose is that the Friends of the Library have a thriving book store there whichis responsible for thousands of dollars that go for additional books and programs for the library. Without this location, I'm sure that sould not be the case.

Dee said...

This reasoned and detailed information makes it clear that the proposal to shutter the Main library is neither based on accurate information about potential savings, nor on any realistic understanding of the role of the library. Thanks, and keep us informed!