Libraries are so in right now.
This, thanks mostly to the fact that, last election, voters finally woke up and saw the wreckage: L.A. City Councilmembers had been hacking the public library system to bits, a non-solution to the hole of debt they'd dug themselves into.
But Measure L changed all that...
... forcing the city to funnel more property taxes back toward after-school havens for hundreds of L.A. kids. More on the 2011-12 budget here.
So now that 72 libraries across the city will be re-opening their doors on Mondays, we'll see you all there, right? But not this coming Monday, because it's 4th of July. (Stay home. Have a BBQ. Read the Constitution or something.) And not the Monday after that, either: The new schedule begins July 18. Locate your nearest branch here. Now for the bad news:
To partially compensate for the extra costs, branch libraries will be closing Friday mornings until 1:30 p.m. (Not that anyone besides cat ladies and bored homeless guys go to the library on Friday mornings. We presume; we've never been.) Also, the system will stay closed on Sundays.
Westwood Patch shares some community joy:
[The re-opening] was great news for Ivet Eghbalieh of West L.A. who brings her kids to the Westwood Branch a couple of times a month. They would have come more often had the library been open Mondays because it's the most convenient day for their busy schedule.
"This is where all of our reading materials come from," she said as she helped her son with homework at one of the tables in the children's section.
Happy news, indeed. But when we factor in the Friday morning closure, it looks like the city is just adding a mere half-day to the library's current schedule. Is that all we get for $11.7 million in 2011 property taxes, after a year of fighting for Measure L?
The Weekly reported in February that "the measure eventually adds $50 million per year without raising taxes, by shifting money from other departments." So hopefully, the doors will only continue to open wider. We've contacted city officials for the long-term plan.
Update: Library spokesman Peter Persic says the Central Library and the city's seven regional libraries (bigger than a branch, with bigger collections) will still open at 10 a.m. on Fridays.
But, like we said, the 60-odd branch libraries won't open until 1:30 p.m. on those days. And Sundays are still a no-go -- with the exception of the Robertson branch, which will instead close on Saturdays, at the urging of the large orthodox Jew population in the area and their Jewish councilman, Paul Koretz.
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Persic says a large chunk of the initial Measure L money (which ended up being $13 million) also went toward the increased salaries of library workers, as negotiated by their union earlier in the year. The breakdown, via Persic:
- $7 million goes to pay related costs (i.e. building maintenance, utilities, security, etc.).
- $6 million goes to direct costs (i.e. salaries). Of this amount, about $1.7 million is available for service restoration. (The remainder must be used to cover salary changes previously negotiated by the city and unions.)
The one thing we can count on for sure: Four years from now, Measure L requires that all library hours be restored to the way they were in 2009. For now, we'll just have to be content we got our Mondays back.