Long Beach’s 12 public libraries have been hit hard by the city wide budget cuts, receiving back very little of the extra money they had to give to the city to cover a deficit.
“The police, the firefighters, and the libraries all have to give money to the city because we are all in a general fund”, said Bayshore Library Branch Supervisor and Adult Librarian Debi Vilamder. “This year we had to give $17.8 million but on top of that the libraries had to find another $1.2 million to give to the city for a deficit which means when they do that then we’re cutting”.
The $1.2 million the city’s libraries had to give is due to a reported $18.5 million budget deficit the city of Long Beach is facing.
Even though the Long Beach Public Library system received two thirds of the extra money they gave to the city, not much it can be used to buy new books, hire new staff, our restore the budgets of each library.
$400,000 of the money we get back is going to be used to buy checkout machines”, said Vilamder. “We are only getting back $56,000 to restore the budget at our library”.
Bayshore Public Library has been one of the libraries hit hard by the budget slashing.
“This year we’re losing our children’s librarian, so we have no children’s storytime” said Vilamder. “They are taking the children’s librarian from this library and taking her back to the main Long Beach Public Library”.
Vilamder says it’s not just losing the children’s librarian that is hurting Bayshore Public Library, but also the fact that staff support is also being cut dramatically.
“They’re also cutting the hours of our page staff” said Vilamder. “The pages are the ones that put the books back on the shelf and they also work the front desk when the clerk isn’t here or I’m not up here. They’re cutting 55 hours of paging time down to 30. The budget cut this year cut 400 hours of clerk time for the entire Long Beach Library system”.
Viladmer admits that the cutting of paging hours have made things harder for the staff at Bayshore Public Library.
“For us cutting paging hours means a lot of work because that means we have to cover lunches, we have to do a lot of things when there are only two full time people, the rest are just part time”, said Vilamder.
Getting less money back from what they gave to the city also means that Long Beach’s public libraries have less money to actually buy books for people to read and to check out.
“Our book budget was slashed $90,000 citywide so that’s less money that can be used to buy items”, said Vilamder.
Even though the public libraries in Long Beach have been hit hard by the budget cuts, Vilamder says they were guaranteed some relief by the city.
“The city is eventually going to give the libraries more clerk hours to help”, said Vilamder. “They said they will give us 25 extra clerk hours and they’re going to give us another adman intern which is 20 hours to help with some programming”.
Vilamder says that budget cutting at Long Beach’s public libraries has been happening for quite some time now.
“From 1959 when all the libraries were built to the early 1970s Long Beach got 75 percent of the oil”, Vilamder said. “Then the state of California said no we don’t want you to get all of that so after that we only got 25 percent of the oil. The oil is what funded the schools and the libraries. That’s why we have so many libraries because we were getting so much of the oil money at that time”.
Vilamder says that what used to happen was people working in the library would retire and then that person’s position wouldn’t be filled again by another person.
“What happens usually is we don’t necessarily have to lay off someone”, said Vilamder. “What happens usually is someone retires so we just lose that position. We don’t gain it back”.
Despite all the stress the budget cuts have caused to Bayshore Public Library, Vilamder is thankful from the support that the libraries are getting.
“We have a lot of community support”, said Vilamder. “Our community is behind all the libraries and we have a lot of friends of the libraries and foundation so they are all behind the libraries and helping to support them”.