Philadelphia Libraries Staying Open

Budget passed. Libraries are staying open.

I have mixed feelings about this “unless you pass the budget, we will close the libraries!” sort of PR move, but I have to admit that I didn’t follow this last one as closely as I have followed these things in the past. I am, as always, happy that libraries are staying open. That said, I honestly didn’t think this wouldn’t pass. I don’t want people to feel threatened to vote for things — more cops, more fire fighters, more librarians — I’d like them to vote for things because they’re a good idea. Budgets are terribly complicated and we’re all making tough choices about money. I’d like to think that we could, possibly, trust our elected representatives to stand by their words, as when the Philadelphia mayor said “We will not close facilities that serve our most vulnerable populations, such as libraries, health centers, or recreation centers.” I realize that the final decision is not his alone, but I did feel like folks had our back on this one.

6 thoughts on “Philadelphia Libraries Staying Open

  1. Jessica-

    You know me well enough (I hope) to believe me that when I say that I do not think that this was an idle threat.

    I was a public library director for over 8 years in two states. I know where the money comes from. I have a brother in Pennsylvania and know the PLA Executive Director. The City of Philadelphia was in dire straits, as are the large cities in many states. In a way, they were most likely being held hostage by the suburban and rural legislators whose institutions do not face the same factors that urban libraries and communities do.

    As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” And this is a good example.

    Like you, I am glad it has been resolved, and I think that we will learn more in the future,

  2. There is a difference between a PR ploy and carrying out fiduciary responsibility. They were living off savings and no public agency is really supposed to do that past three weeks in typical budgeting starting a new fiscal year. They were past two months without new state appropriations at the start of a fiscal year. To have not done what they did would have bordered on irresponsibility that might almost involve liability for the key decision makers.

    Budgeting isn’t complicated and you don’t have to be an administrator to get it. If you can handle MARC21, you already have a handle on something far more complicated than public agency finance.

  3. I’m also not sure I would count the expected 30-70% cuts in library funding in various categories to be “having our back.” Oh, well. We didn’t really need electronic catalogs or databases anyways, or the ability to transfer items between libraries.

  4. One more quick point–PA’s budget hasn’t passed yet. The bill that passed was a measure that allows the City of Philadelphia to temporarily raise their sales tax by one cent and defer payments to city pension plans. It’s a stopgap measure to provide funding for the many organizations that currently lack it since the state can’t seem to pass the budget.

    When the budget does pass, libraries are expected to take a big hit in state funding. Granted at this point, I think most people just want a budget.

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