There hasn’t been a lot of public noise made about the proposed cut to the library budget, a point made by citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee in this commentary.
Were you there a few years ago when “we” summoned the voting power in the City to end the multi-year failure to increase the Library Budget? I was. And many were. In fact a plurality of voters supported the 1 Mil of annual city funds in favor of this budget change. And we have lived with it for a few years. What is changing this year? For one thing, the Mayor’s proposed 2017 reduces the funding from FY 2016, $6,829,089 to $5,825,185, a $1 Million reduction with cuts in salaries ($386,599), publications and subscriptions ($237,084), and special services freeze ($570,439).
What is behind those numbers? One can only guess but it seems very serious. The Personnel Summary chart for Library Services is on page 326. It shows 55 Filled positions and 0 Vacant positions. However, many positions that are actually filled today April 20, 2016 with Librarian I, Librarian II and Librarian III qualified employees have been zeroed out on page 326. Reviewing the same chart from 2016 proposed budget, page 334, indicates that 9 Librarian I, 3 Librarian II, and 6 Librarian III positions are currently authorized and likely filled, but that the Mayor’s proposal would eliminate all of these positions. Where is the narrative that would argue for the removal of these people, at least some of whom have helped reach goals successfully in this and previous years? And who are the 18-20 newcomers who will change the nature of Library staffing in the future?
Equally important to personnel is the elimination of the funds that have been budgeted by the Library for years to fulfill responsibilities to the East End and East Side neighborhoods. Great progress has been made in planning and identification of locations and design requirements but if this money is cut, what will happen in these neighborhoods?
The City Council identifies a member to act as liaison to the Library Board which might mean staying on top of Library actions and attending some meetings of the group. This liaison responsibility has not been upheld. The City Council is NOT ACCOUNTABLE for naming people to positions who thereafter do not uphold such a responsibility. Why not? Do we give out ribbons for all of the City Council titles? When is the awards ceremony? How about some dedication to the task to keep our good library system operating? Where is the voice of the Board? Where is the voice of the City Librarian? Time will tell.