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Measure L: Mar Vista Branch Librarian Carole M. Kealoha Says Patrons Hurt and Confused by Library Budget Cuts

L.A. Librarian Carole M. Kealoha
L.A. Librarian Carole M. Kealoha

At the Mar Vista Branch Library on the west side, senior librarian Carole M. Kealoha says patrons are not happy about the steep budget cuts to the Los Angeles Public Library, where they rely on its services and resources.

"Not everyone has a computer at home," says Kealoha. "They can't afford it. So they come to the library."

But with libraries closed two days a week -- Sunday and Monday -- and reduced operating hours on other days, patrons' access to computers and other things has become uncomfortably limited. Take, for example, the case of a young student who recently visited the Mar Vista Branch.

The student had been using one of the computers at the Mar Vista Branch, working hard on a report for school. It was Saturday, and the report was due soon.

As the library was closing up for the night, the student suddenly lost all his work on the computer, and he didn't have one at home. But the student couldn't go to a public library anywhere in L.A. on Sunday or Monday -- they are all closed due to drastic budget cuts.

"I felt heartbroken," says Kealoha. "I couldn't help him."

Sometimes parents forget to pick up their kids at the library's new closing time, says Kealoha, which is 5:30 p.m. three days a week -- certainly not friendly hours for working parents.

Other times, says the senior librarian, people still expect the Mar Vista Branch to be open on Monday, and when they find out it's not and why, they can't understand why L.A. politicians would make such hard-hitting budget cuts to public libraries.

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 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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