Our school system is cutting $7,000,000 from its administrative budget and laying off 600 teachers. The parks and recreation department is closing some rec centers, cutting back staff and services, and raising fees.
The county budget is a thing of woe.
Nothing, however, has seemed to stun the citizenry more than an announcement earlier this month that our City/County Library board planned to lay off 148 employees and close 12 of our branch and regional libraries in two weeks. That’s half of the branches in the county.
Within 24 hours of the closings announcement, people had donated $35,000 online at the library’s website and hundreds more had been placed in cash collection boxes inside the libraries. The Friends of the Library donated $50,000.
The library board met again in response to the public outcry and voted to keep all the branches open, but for fewer days and shorter hours. They will lay off 84 people and reduce salaries for the other workers. The ax will fall on extras like story hour, book clubs, special programs for teens and job seekers, computer training, and maintenance. There will be no budget for new books or media items.
Even so, it’s a temporary patch. The County Commission has already warned they will probably slash $17,000,000 in library funds next year. It isn’t just the library and it isn’t just our county having these problems.
Even some churches have joined in the campaign to raise money for the libraries. Volunteers are outside the libraries, encouraging people to help.
When budgets are tight everywhere and draconian cuts in services are routine, why the loyalty to this particular institution? These signs, among many others posted outside the main branch of our library, may explain.