While Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. City Council continue to deal with lingering budget deficits, there's one bright spot amid the darkness -- L.A. public libraries are now open longer.
Starting today, the added hours at the city's 73 libraries is the second phase of returning the public library system to its former glory. The turnaround came after L.A. Weekly exposed severe budget cuts to the libraries. Public library officials and the librarians' union credit that article for the creation and passage of Measure L, which infused the library system with more cash.
In a recent press release about the restored hours, Villaraigosa noted that libraries "are vital neighborhood resources" and that it "pained me greatly to make the decision to reduce library hours in 2010. Restoration gets the city back on track and one step closer to fully restoring our city's library hours. None of this would have been possible without voter support of Measure L."
We're glad Villaraigosa finally came around to the fact that libraries are important -- immigrants use them as places to acclimate themselves to their new city, senior citizens have a place to stay cool during the summer and get out of the apartment, children of single parents go there after school and stay off the streets, and unemployed folks with no computers at home use computers at the libraries to find work. But the mayor had actually been playing with the library system's budget since 2008.
As we reported in the 2010 feature story "City of Airheads," which won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia's "Public Service" award, Villaraigosa "executed an unprecedented, and punishing, raid on the libraries. Last spring [in 2010] he convinced the City Council to close the city's central and eight regional libraries on Sundays, then slashed $22 million from the 2010-11 budget and closed all 73 libraries on Mondays beginning July 19. Library officials say as many as 15,000 youths -- plus an untold number of adults -- have been turned away every closed day this summer."
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In addition, "Unlike the angry City Council in New York, which successfully fought a large library budget cut proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and 4th District City Councilman Tom LaBonge, chairman of the council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, quickly caved on Villaraigosa's proposed 2010 budget, of which the library cuts were a part."
So revisionist history doesn't take root, we thought a reminder of how things really went down was in order.
In the end, it is a good day for libraries, and for all the young students, senior citizens, immigrants, unemployed men and women, college students, and mothers and fathers who use them. It was the citizens of Los Angeles, who voted for Measure L, who restored funding and hours for public libraries, not the politicians.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.