The Morning Report
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Determination: Mostly True
Analysis: To save $7.4 million and help close a $56.7 million budget gap, the mayor has proposed cutting library hours in half next year. If approved by the City Council, the average branch library would be open two weekdays and alternating Saturdays.
The council is scheduled to discuss the proposal Thursday and it’s expected to be a packed, heated session. Residents have repeatedly criticized library cuts at recent community meetings and several City Council members have already publicly opposed them.
On Saturday, Faulconer joined Ocean Beach residents to collect signatures opposing the proposal and encourage people to attend Thursday’s meeting. His office announced the event to news media and Channel 6 was among those who went. The station ran a story about the proposed library cuts, the petition in Ocean Beach and interviewed Faulconer, who said:
Library usage is up. We have more people using the library than ever. And so to cut back these very important services to our families, to our neighborhoods right now, is the wrong way to go.
Although the story didn’t explain Faulconer’s barometer for library usage, he was specifically talking about circulation in the last fiscal year. His spokesman confirmed the reference and his office used similar language to describe circulation in the press release it sent out to news media.
And in fact, according to library officials, San Diegans did check out more books, movies, music and other things from libraries in the last fiscal year than any previous year. By that metric, library usage has been going up for several years despite fewer operating hours and other budget cutbacks.
But since last year’s peak, circulation has begun to fall.
Based on the first six months of the current fiscal year, which started last July, library officials predict a 7 percent drop in circulation compared to last year. They attribute the drop to a December 2009 budget cut that trimmed operating hours from 43 hours a week to 37.
Our definition for Mostly True says the statement must be accurate and contain an important nuance to consider. Faulconer’s statement fits that definition because it accurately represents the most recent annual circulation totals but doesn’t address the projected decline, which would undermine his argument that libraries are more popular today than ever before.
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