Thelma Hernandez says the L.A. public library system has been an essential resource for her family, all of whom regularly visit the Robertson Branch Library on L.A.'s westside.

Not only do Hernandez and her two kids take out books, DVDs, and CDs, but the young mother is improving her English writing skills by working with a tutor at the library. Yet reduced operating hours at L.A.'s public libraries due to deep budget cuts have made things much more difficult for Hernandez.

“Sometimes I can't go,” she says, noting that libraries citywide are now shuttered on Sundays and Mondays and close at 5:30 p.m. three days a week. “It was easier before when it was open six days.”

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

“If the library would open more hours,” says Hernandez, “it would make it easier.”

Hernandez works as a housekeeper during the day, and her 9-year-old son would often go to the library on Mondays after school.

“It's a quiet place to be,” she says. “It's calming.”

That can't happen anymore, and the mother needs to make other arrangements.

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

LA Weekly