By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Cindy Mediavilla, an expert on the history of public libraries in California, notes that during the Great Depression, libraries were packed with out-of-work citizens. With L.A. mired in stubborn, double-digit unemployment, Mediavilla says, it's "rather shortsighted to not fund libraries during these dark times. People need access to computers to apply for jobs."
Sari Feldman, former president of the Public Library Association and executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system in Ohio, says the assault by city fathers on the library budget in L.A. is a prime example of how some elected officials "don't understand the services we provide every day. Working-class people and people out of work are the ones hardest hit by the cuts to libraries."
Critics call it a slash-and-burn tactic with no eye for the future. "They don't look far ahead when they budget," says Hatfield, of the mayor and council, "and when they don't look far ahead, they can't get ahead of the budgetary problems" — some of which they created.
Adds Clean Sweep's Kaye: "It reflects the values of City Hall in not caring about the general public‚ who don't have an advocate at City Hall."
A few years ago, Erica Silverman, a writer of children's books, decided she wanted to be a city librarian. "I've spent my whole life in libraries," she says. She went to school, made the grades and eventually got a job at the Edendale Branch Library in Echo Park, where screenwriters, students, English-language learners, seniors and others gather to learn or hang out in a friendly environment off the streets.
"I think libraries can be taken for granted because they do what they do quietly," Silverman says. She wonders if Mayor Villaraigosa, City Council President Garcetti and the rest of the City Council truly understand how a public library's numerous services help a community to enrich itself, especially in poor neighborhoods. "Access to information is important to a democracy," she says.
But firsthand experience also has taught her that open, easily accessible libraries create not just better cities and better cultures but better humans.
"I have interactions all the time with people," Silverman says. "I see kids' eyes light up when they find a book. I know we're creating lifelong readers."
** Corrected from earlier version which stated the cost to reopen libraries as 65 cents per child.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.