[Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)](1981-Current)
  Home > NewsBank Full-Text Newspapers  Edit Search   Help  

    Record 2 of 57

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)

January 25, 2003

Workers discuss cuts to libraries
In Phila., hundreds of librarians from across the nation gathered to decry the reductions.


Edition: CITY-D
Section: CITY & REGION
Page: B03

Estimated printed pages: 2

Article Text:

Librarians do get noisy after all.

Hundreds of them from across the country jammed a meeting room at the Convention Center yesterday for a noontime rally, loudly decrying budget cuts that they say threaten the survival of public and academic libraries coast to coast.

"We don't have to be quiet anymore," urged Carla Hayden, a Baltimore librarian and president-elect of the American Library Association, which staged the "Save America's Libraries" event on the first day of its midwinter meeting in Philadelphia.

Clogging the aisles and waving cardboard pennants, ALA members listened as colleagues told of branches closing, book budgets disappearing, librarians losing their jobs, and whole library systems being eliminated.

In Florida this week, Gov. Jeb Bush proposed disbanding the state library, one librarian told the crowd. In the Oakland, Calif., system, there will be no money for new books until midsummer. The Seattle Public Library system will shut down for two weeks this year, as it did in 2002. Proposed legislation in California would require readers to pay up to $5 for books from libraries outside the county where they live.

And to purchase extra copies of the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a small-town system in southern Wisconsin will have to sacrifice other additions to its children's collection.

Across the nation

"That sounds small, but it's big if it's happening all over the country," said Ethel E. Himmel, president of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies.

"Americans go to libraries more than they go to movie theaters," ALA president Mitch Freedman said. "Without support, these resources may not be there when they're needed most."

In an economic downturn, he noted, library use goes up.

Notably absent from the podium was a representative of the host city's book-lending behemoth, the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Explaining the absence, Free Library director Elliot Shelkrot said, "We have not been affected as some other cities have. Our cuts have been very modest over the last couple of years."

The local library's greatest challenge, he said, is to serve the ever-increasing number of patrons within the budget.

"We have been looking at ways to reengineer to prepare ourselves for cuts that may come," Shelkrot said. "Mayor Street has a great understanding of how important libraries are, and I know that if there are cuts, it's the last thing he wants to do."

Cause for concern

But dire reports about libraries in other cities do make him nervous, Shelkrot said. "There is no question that when our cities don't do well, the libraries in those cities can't do well."

Still, there was one local voice at yesterday's rally.

Bridget McFadden, the mother of a first grader at Bache-Martin Elementary in the city's Fairmount neighborhood, told of a parents' effort to revive the school's library and get the School District of Philadelphia to hire a librarian.

"They do get reading materials to the students, but they have no library services," McFadden said in an interview later.

Paul G. Vallas, the district's chief executive, recently visited the school, she said, but gave parents scant hope that the district will have money for elementary school librarians.

Instead, he raised the possibility of mini-libraries on rolling carts for classrooms, McFadden said.

Contact staff writer Julie Stoiber at 215-854-2468 or jstoiber@phillynews.com.

Copyright (c) 2003 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Record Number: 7004191295