The La Jolla area's Riford and University City libraries were represented when City Council met on the evening of Monday, June 9 to discuss the fiscal year 2015 budget and its recommended revisions. La Jollan Clinton Spangler, whose wife worked for the library for 30 years, was there with a La Jolla/Riford library sign of support to wave at council. Helen Lebowitz, president of Friends of University Community library, also had a UC library sign to share.
A large group of library advocates from across the city met on the 12th floor of City Hall to support suggestions from independent budget analyst Andrea Tevlin. While Mayor Faulconer originally wanted to take $500,000 from the library budget to support city venues, Tevlin and several councilmembers supported taking the money from other sources, including the general fund. City Council gave approval and praise to the mayor for adding four more hours to the anemic 44-hour schedule of neighborhood libraries.
Council President Todd Gloria thanked his colleagues, the mayor, Tevlin and the public for a “smooth and transparent process and sound and fiscally responsible budget.” He also applauded those additional library hours.
President pro tem Sherri Lightner made the motion to accept the revised budget for 2015, seconded by Gloria. Lightner cited the collaboration with the mayor's office and the council and was pleased to see the $500,000 restored to the library budget. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf gave a personal story about being a book person while her children were nook readers. She wants a full evaluation of the collections in each library: What branches and locations are being used? How much online use does the public require?
Before the vote was taken, councilman David Alvarez thanked Gloria, Tevlin and his colleagues, but he felt "some communities are more equal than others" under the new budget. He felt his District 8 came up short, and so the vote was 8-1 in favor of the 2015 package.
After the meeting, listening to a few hours of the words “consultants,” “lawyers” and “feasibility studies,” all of which cost big bucks, questions arise: Who will oversee the distribution of funding for the planned tutoring program? Is there a breakdown of costs? Where will the money go? Who will provide the lesson plans? How much will tutors be paid? What are their qualifications? What accountability do students have? Will success be measured by their test scores or for just showing up for seat time?
The Balboa Park Centennial Celebration committee is a recent memory, whereby money was squandered on lush salaries for little accomplished. Can history repeat itself with the tutoring program?
Libraries have reinvented themselves into community centers. You can see a movie or hear a lecture at Riford or UC. You can use a computer or check out a current DVD. In a recent New Yorker article, on Ian Frazier wrote: “New York City has created visionary civic projects in the past; its public library is chief among them. America now has the highest level of income inequality in the developed world, and New York is among the worst in America. The public library has always been a great democratizer and creator of citizens and a powerful force against inequality..."
Accordingly, City Council worked long and hard to come to the final budget, with some good news for our branch libraries in UC and La Jolla. Let's see how the funding unfolds in the coming year.
Sandy Lippe regularly contributes her View from 52 column to the San Diego Community Newspaper Group.