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Election

Measure L: Benjamin Franklin Librarian Alicia Moguel Says Young Students and Unemployed Impacted By Budget Cuts to L.A.'s Libraries

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Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 7:05 AM

click to enlarge L.A. Librarian Alicia Moguel
  • L.A. Librarian Alicia Moguel
The Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights serves 16 local elementary schools -- from public to private -- but young students can't go to the busy library after school on Mondays due to deep budget cuts to the Los Angeles Public Library system.

"We no longer have Monday hours," says Benjamin Franklin Branch manager Alicia Moguel, "so students and other people who rely on our services can't use them."

Aside from the dying city of Detroit, Los Angeles is the only significant U.S. municipality to close down its entire library system two days a week.

Along with shuttered libraries on Sunday and Monday, L.A. public libraries operate under reduced hours and reduced staffed.

Moguel and her staff, which has been cut in half from four, full-time librarians to two, try their best to serve the public.

"We have a lot of foot traffic," says the librarian. "We're busier than ever."

In fact, Moguel says "hundreds" of young students visit the library every week, with tables now jammed during the only two evenings that the Benjamin Franklin Branch stays open -- three nights a week, the library closes at 5:30 p.m.

Besides kids, adults who don't have a computer at home need to use the library's computers to apply for jobs -- the only way many employers will take an application.

"We have people in our community who have been hit hard by the economic crisis," says Moguel.

It's a shocking situation, in which politicians have quickly turned one of the largest and most respected library systems in the country into an institution that's now less student-friendly, less senior citizen-friendly, and less family-friendly.

L.A. Weekly, in fact, uncovered these embarrassing truths in the widely-read feature story "City of Airheads," which outraged many L.A. residents.

But Measure L, an initiative authored by L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks, seeks to help those kids and families by better funding L.A.'s public libraries.

The ballot measure will not increase taxes, but dedicates a slightly larger slice of existing money in the city's general fund to the library system.

Measure L has been endorsed by Valley Industry and Commerce Association, AFL-CIO's Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the Los Angeles NAACP, the PEN Center USA, former Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan, and many other politicians, labor unions, and civic groups.

On March 8, voters will ultimately decide if Measure L will pass or fail, and if L.A.'s public libraries will or will not suffer more drastic budget cuts in the future.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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