I went to my first City Council Meeting today. There were proposed budget cuts to our public libraries. They wanted to reduce the hours by about half. 18 hours a week on average and stagger hours with certain pairs of branches that are near each other among other things. There’s already been lots of changes. The library downtown (my neighborhood) isn’t open on Saturdays. Sunday it’s open for four hours and those hours of operation are funded by donations, not by the City.
I went this morning just to check it out but it turns out that after all the Council Members speak, the public is allowed 1-2 minutes to speak. So I wrote something as the meeting went on and was the last public speaker. Here’s what I said:
Hi. My name is Evan _______ . I am a sophomore attending San Diego Mesa College and San Diego City College. Because of budget cuts our San Diego Community College School District has cut summer school. No summer school means no use of the school libraries and resources. I utilize San Diego City libraries for resources and services everyday. There was a quote on Library of San Diego’s FB page by Keith Richards stating that The Library is the Great Equalizer. The Library is one of the most important social services to the overall well being of our citizenship. I also utilize Public Transportation. There are many buses and trolley to get here to downtown Central Library. Downtown Central Library is a hub. For me it’s about access to information and convenience and access to get to the place that holds the information is one of the reasons why San Diego Central Library hours should never be cut. I hope that Saturdays are added back to the the schedule in the near future. I understand the idea of seeing what more volunteers can do. Volunteers are awesome. But I think we also need to respect the Professional Librarians who have gone through the system of formal education to provide services to our community. Right now I know unemployed librarians who are volunteers. Let’s save our Libraries and our Librarians. Thank you.
So right after I spoke Todd Gloria said, “Keith Richards said that.” I was like yeh, Keith Richards. Rolling Stones. Then Councilman Gloria said that he was going to tell his dad about that. His dad would get a kick out of it.
It was a very cool experience. About 2 hours and 45 minutes. The public spoke for about an hour. It went by fast and maybe it’s because it was the first time. I love first time experiences. Some of the things I said in the little impromptu/prepared speech were in response to what some of the council members had said before. There was a question why San Diego Central Library was getting an increase in almost two-hundred thousand dollars while the branch libraries, which are the heart of the communities, were losing funds. There was also a question about volunteers. There are over I think 2700 volunteers for the Libraries and they aren’t allowed to do certain things. The complaint was that they are willing and some have Masters degrees or higher degrees and why can’t they do more. What can’t volunteers do that Librarians can do? It was sort of hostile toned but it was frustration mixed with passion and not understanding what the problem was/is. So that’s why I put in the bit about Librarians needing to be valued as a Professional resource to our city. Because Library Staffs have been so drastically cut.. well..even with all the volunteers they need staff to properly train the volunteers. The City of San Diego allocates 2.7% of its budget to the Library System. We need to in my opinion, allocate more funds to the Library System, full staff and full hours. Central is open 44 hours a week and it’s a ridiculous schedule. Different daily. The Branch Libraries are open on average 33-38 hours.
That’s it. I’m done 🙂 I’m sleepy. Been a full long day.