Oakland Plans Closure of Most of Their Libraries
As part of the ongoing budget crisis in California, the city of Oakland has proposed closure of fourteen of their eighteen public libraries at the end of June. The three remaining libraries would have reduced budgets and be open only three days a week. This would help close a 50 million dollar budget gap in the general fund.
Among the sites slated for closure is the Tool Lending Library, a unique project that allows anyone with a library card to check out tools like saws and shovels the same way they check out books.
Two other city libraries are included in this proposal: the nearby cities of Piedmont and Emeryville will no longer have public libraries because their funding is provided by the city of Oakland. Adding to the controversy, Emeryville and Piedmont have offered the city a total of $470,471 to keep their libraries open, to no avail. The closures would also include the African American Library and Museum and all the adult literacy programs.
The severe budget cuts leave many to believe that the remaining four libraries will be drastically overwhelmed. They would have reduced staff and additional services like Internet and media downloads would be either reduced or non-existent. No new books would be purchased. The staff at the surviving four libraries would serve 97,750 people per branch. Compare this to nearby San Francisco, where each library serves 31,115 people, and the picture looks grim.
There is a campaign to save Oakland's library system. The first proposed solution--a .25 cents a day tax--has already been defeated. Another proposal would cut only $400,000 from the budget, if city employees agree to renogiate their salaries, benefits and union contracts. This has added fire to the debate over pensions for Oakland's fire and police employees.
In the last election season, citizens passed Measure Q, a parcel tax which would raise 14 million dollars to prevent library closures. However, Measure Q only goes into effect if the general fund budgets 9 million to libraries, and the proposed libraries budget would be less than this.
Image credit with thanks to Aaron Michels