Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Save LA Public Library movement hard at work

Grassroots SaveLAPL Website, Having Already Changed Library Policy, Gears Up To Protect Endangered LA Public Library Budget

WHAT: After a week in which its users successfully convinced L.A.'s City Librarian to table a proposed $1-per-book loan fee, and the Library Foundation to create a dedicated book-buying fund, the grassroots SaveLAPL Web site takes aim on next week's budget hearings when the Library faces devastating cuts to the book fund, staff layoffs and Sunday branch closures.

WHERE: http://www.savelapl.org
Grassroots preservation campaign - http://www.savelapl.org
Supporting documents and FAQ - http://www.savelapl.org/faq
Library Foundation book buying fund - http://www.lfla.org/enhancementfund

In the week leading up to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's 2008-09 budget announcement, a grassroots group of book lovers, L.A. historians, librarians and free software activists came quickly together as saveLAPL.org in a last minute push to stop a misguided plan to implement a $1-per-book loan fee for all inter-branch library requests. Not quite one week and 875 impassioned emails to the Mayor later, the proposal was taken off the table in a stunning victory for those who believe, as Benjamin Franklin did, that the Public Library must remain FREE for all citizens. But SaveLAPL still has work to do.

On May 1st the Budget and Finance Committee will hold hearings on the library budget, and LAPL is facing devastating cuts. These include:

1) Sunday closures of the eight regional branch libraries of North Hollywood, Mid-Valley Regional, Arroyo Seco, West Los Angeles, Hollywood (Goldwyn Branch), Exposition Park, San Pedro and West Valley. With this comes elimination of 36.5 staff positions.

2) Book-buying budget slashed by $2 million, to $7.7 million for the entire fiscal year (July to June). This represents a 22% cut from last year's book budget of $9.8 million (which ran out in February), and a 33% cut from the $11.4 million book budget of two years ago.

3) Library staff, will be subject to "short-term layoff," which according to the Mayor, "could take the form of mandatory furlough days or reduced work weeks."

In light of this plan, an additional $1.4 million is being deducted from the library budget. But wait, you say, LAPL has plenty of money it can afford to take some cuts along with the rest of the City services. Not so! Before these cuts, in 2006, Los Angeles was already among the poorest performing North American cities with populations over one million when it came to library expenditures per citizen, spending just $2.56 per capita. And since 2006, LA has fallen from #19 to #23 on this list of 25 cities. Compare LA to New York ($3.90), San Diego ($3.92), Broward County ($4.14), Chicago ($4.29), Hawaii ($4.92), Philadelphia ($5.13), Las Vegas ($6.73) and King County, WA ($8.84) and it's obvious how woefully under-funded LAPL has been and continues to be.

Additional cuts will put Los Angeles at the bottom of the barrel in support for Library services, and be a national embarrassment. With just one click, visitors to the SaveLAPL website can send an email supporting the Library to Mayor Villaraigosa, all five members of the Budget and Finance Committee, and City Librarian Fontayne Holmes, who will be speaking on behalf of library services at the May 1st budget hearing. SaveLAPL is built with Drupal's Civic Space, the free software package developed for Howard Dean's presidential campaign, and continues the tradition of using cutting edge free technology to empower citizens andamplify their voices at moments of community crisis.

The SaveLAPL.org website was launched by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the newlywed L.A. writers and social historians behind Esotouric bus adventures and the 1947project time travel blog. This was their third preservation campaign following successful campaigns to Save the 76 Ball and to have writer Charles Bukowski's East Hollywood bungalow named a historic-cultural monument. Launched late in the evening of April 14, over the course of National Library Week the www.savelapl.org website resulted in 875 emails to the Mayor, Library Commission and City Librarian, features on KPCC and KFWB, and coverage in the Daily News and many blogs including LAObserved, Librarian.net, the L.A Times online, Franklin Avenue, Pico and the Man and Mickie's Zoo. The week ended with the announcement that the proposed $1-per-book inter-branch loan fee would not be introduced. The Web site was re-launched on April 25 with a new petition, asking the Mayor and Budget and Finance Committee to restore the book-buying budget, keep branch libraries open on Sunday, and protect the jobs of library staff.

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