At the beginning of the city council budget hearing on libraries on May 5th, every city council member proclaimed his or her support for libraries and expressed a personal commitment to restore the funds which the mayor has proposed to rip from the library budget- 7.4 million dollars. They emphasized that libraries are core city services! Peace has broken out my friends!
But as Senator John Kyle explained to us—or not—some things are not meant as “factual statements.” A Library Ordinance was approved by the city council in 2002 that would provide for the ongoing operation of the branch and central libraries by requiring that a fixed amount of the general fund be transferred to library operations until it reached 6% of that fund. If our elected representatives truly felt that libraries are a core service, as their constituents certainly do, they would have adhered to that ordinance in every subsequent year, which they did not. The library budget would be over 66 million dollars today if they had. We would have been spared our most recent pathetic charade in front of the council, pleading and weeping to maintain a 34 million dollar budget that is only 2.7% of the general fund budget. The ugly truth is that our libraries are worse off today than they were when the library ordinance was enacted.
And then there is the sex part. I hope I didn’t lose you in my introduction. After saying that libraries are important and we can’t take an ax to libraries, and we can’t eliminate frontline staff, Councilmembers Lorie “Bad Cop” Zapf and Carl “Marginally Less Bad Cop” DeMaio took turns grilling the library director about and expounding upon the availability of… drum roll please… volunteers!
The mayor’s current proposed budget calls for the elimination of 77 full time employees in the branches. Half of these positions are librarians and half are clerks. Every single one of these individuals spends significant time with the public. They are front line staff. It became apparent that both Zapf and DeMaio want to pander to their base by keeping the lights on in their respective branch libraries; they just don’t see the need to pay people to do it, which is yet another way to pander to their base.
Libraries remain a female dominated profession. The people Zapf and DeMaio do not want to pay are predominantly women. Think about that. Professional women in a female dominated profession can be replaced by all those retired people with master degrees, per DeMaio, and women who perform clerical functions in this profession can be replaced by volunteers who can do data entry and book processing if we just give them a chance according to Zapf. Women — educated and trained women, are expendable in our city workforce. DeMaio’s misogynist rolling billboard even made them the enemy of the citizens.
When we all turned out in support of our libraries we presented a unified voice that we wanted to maintain the hours, the staff and the services that are currently provided. Zapf and DeMaio need to drop the bullshit sexist volunteer thing right now. If they support libraries they will find sources of revenue outside of the library budget. It is that simple. Zapf and DeMaio need to take the sex out of the city budget.