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Measure L: For Sheryn Morris and Other Librarians, Adults, Students and Immigrants Need Libraries Now More Than Ever

Sheryn Morris has been a librarian for 32 years. Eighteen of them at the Los Angeles Public Library system. She currently works at the reference desk at the literature and fiction section of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown.

"We really love our jobs," says Morris, referring to herself and other librarians, "and we're here to help people. And there's a lot more work to do to help the community."

From organizing tutoring programs for elementary school students and adult English learners to reaching out to local schools and educating students about how to use a library to achieve academic success, L.A. libraries and their staffs do more than simply provide books.

"We are asked more questions," says Morris, "we have more explaining to do, than ever before." She adds, "The questions are not just where is this book or that book."

In fact, librarians must often educate students how to simply use a library, especially its large number of database systems.

Adults who don't own computers at home often need tutorials on how to use a mouse and do searches on Google.

Librarians who are bi- or multi-lingual often act as interpreters for L.A.'s immigrant communities.

The list goes on.

But since last July, students, immigrants, and adults have been severely impacted by deep budget cuts to L.A.'s public libraries, which now operates only five days a week and with reduced hours that closes libraries at 5:30 p.m. three nights a week.

It's a shocking situation, in which L.A. 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 immigrant-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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