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A roundup of thought and opinion I’ve been reading about one of the mayor’s proposed budget cut targets: libraries.
• Mayor Jerry Sanders released the city budget this week and made a lot of people unhappy by proposing to cut library hours roughly in half. (Similar to a proposal he made in 2008, which was rejected by the City Council.)
“How ironic that the City would look at cutting library hours during National Library Week,” someone commented on KPBS’s story.
A number of people also found it ironic there’s an expensive new central library going up when the city can’t keep existing libraries open longer. There was particular vigor in Dianne Parham’s remarks:
It is so hypocritical of the mayor to shove the white elephant library down our throats when it has been, from the beginning, underfunded and underestimated as to the cost of building, maintaining and operating, and then he yanks funding from the community branch libraries that most people go to.
If we can afford that, why can’t we afford to keep libraries open longer? voiceofsandiego.org CEO Scott Lewis cynically answered on Twitter,
Can you take a pic in front of a library hour? No. Can’t break ground on hours or cut ribbons. They’re useless.
To which Elwood Blues — VOSD Editor Andrew Donohue — replied,
One time I thought I had a picture of one but it turned out to be Bigfoot.
I work for a couple of wiseguys who get slaphappy when they’ve been reading grand jury reports.
• Our data journalist Keegan Kyle stacked up the library hours in a graphic, showing the striking difference between 2003 and the proposed 2012 hours.
• There are nuanced arguments about the cuts, and Chris Brewster is one of many who see the cuts as an understandable compromise.
What Sanders is doing in this case is prioritizing public safety and other issues perceived to be the most important to taxpayers/voters. To the extent that libraries and rec centers are seen as less important discretionary services, they are cut.
Jeffrey Davis, who is a library employee, wonders at the validity of making damaging cuts to one department’s budget, when making cuts of the same value in other segments of the budget would hurt that affected department a lot less.
It’s worth pointing out that the priority for safety can’t be separated from the difference in the size of the department budgets. The $7.4M proposed cut to libraries represents 22% of that department budget. For police, $7.4M would represent a 2% cut. Put another way, police are deemed such a priority that Sanders would rather cut 22% out of libraries than allow a 2% cut to police. I think it’s worth asking if that’s the best choice if low crime is the criteria.
• Councilman Carl DeMaio opposes the library cuts (and other cuts). “If a library is only open 18 hours a week, what is the point? It’s penny wise and pound foolish,” his Facebook page says.
He underscores his position by writing his own headlines on links to other media. A story in the U-T, “Sanders proposes huge library, parks cuts,” is retitled on his Facebook page as “DeMaio Urges Rejection of Cuts to Libraries and Parks.” A KUSI story, “Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” is retitled as “Councilmember DeMaio Questions Drastic Cuts.”
• Karla Peterson has a piece in the U-T about how libraries are used and who is doing the using.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that we have other media,” said Donna Guhl, librarian at the Balboa branch library in Clairemont. “Checking out DVDs is huge. The computers are full from the minute we open. Sometimes we have to turn the lights off on people at the end of the day.”
Stefan Popov, Dagny Salas, and Will Stocker contributed to this article.
Items quoted here may be lightly edited for spelling, grammar, or style (such as using proper capitalization, removing extra exclamation marks, or fixing obvious typos). Send comments you’d like to have included here to Grant Barrett, engagement editor for voiceofsandiego.org: email@example.com or (619) 550-5666 or @grantbarrett on Twitter.