Reader Rant: There is no ‘temporary’ closing of a library

by on November 11, 2008 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy

by Jon Christensen

After a career in public finance I know how common it is for Libraries and Parks to be among the first sacrificial offerings at the budget alter. Please consider these few facts; There is no “temporary” closure of a branch; a branch closed is a branch erased. Book stock will mildew and rot if not properly stored – and they won’t be, why bother. The building, currently an asset for the city and the neighborhood, will become blight if left abandoned and that’s the plan. Property values in the neighborhood will be pulled down by the loss of this asset while the deteriorating building becomes a liability for the city, increasing insurance costs. You’ll realize this of course and conclude you might as well sell. Do you want to sell real estate in this market?

The same is true for Parks. Close a park and it will rot, become blight and pull down the surrounding neighborhood, further aggravating the cities revenue situation. And by making this choice you will be harming the very core, the very reason why you, the city, exists – for the people, for the neighborhoods. You are being asked to make responsible priorities based on current realities. Consider law enforcement; Crime rate is down, across the nation and in San Diego; Prop. D was approved, furthering lowering the demand for police. You can run a Branch Library for what it costs to field 3 patrol officers; operate a community park for even less. It’s been reported that Safety members doing administrative functions have been returned to field duty. A good first step. By freezing the Police positions the city loses through normal attrition and retirements in just two months, this can provide the funding slated to be cut from the Libraries and Parks. Then again, reducing council staff to the level of about 1980 could also provide the funding. Prioritizing is difficult.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

annagrace November 11, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Excellent article Jon. To put the asset issue into perspective, consider this: the seven branch libraries slated for closure own over 405,000 high demand books, cd’s and videos that are tailored to their respective community’s needs and preferences. The Ocean Beach branch alone owns over 50,000 items. (The average Borders book store has between 20,000- 90,000 books.) Libraries give an astounding bang for the tax payer’s buck. In addition, each of these 7 branches has a minimum of two public internet/word processing computers and free wifi. If those libraries go dark, there will be close to a half million items and over 14 public internet terminals just sitting there…while the library system struggles with an inadequate materials budget to meet the public demand. What is wrong with this picture? How can we afford to squander our public assets?


Frank Gormlie November 11, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Annagrace – great stats, thanks. Were you involved in the City Heights protest held recently? Nice to see your comments surface on this rag-tag platform. Tag – you’re it.


Anna November 12, 2008 at 8:45 am

Here’s an email I sent to all the City Councilmembers:

It bears keeping in mind that over 64,000 households are served by the seven libraries which are currently facing closure. THERE ARE NO SIGNS ON THESE LIBRARIES’ DOORS REGARDING THIS PROPOSED ACTION. Shouldn’t there be some good faith effort on the part of our government to inform it’s own constituents?

If you truly value an informed citizenry, want to promote transparency in government and believe in the democratic process, then signs must be prominently posted on all library and park and recreation facilities which are slated for closure; these signs must clearly state the proposed closure information, dates of council sessions on this issue, and how to contact the city council offices and mayor. Given the scheduled hearing dates, these signs should be posted by the end of the work day on Friday.


Stu November 12, 2008 at 10:32 am

Jon makes a good point. As I see if we close the library, any library lets use the asset for something else. Don’t let it or its books rot. What will it cost to close the libraries, properly? This would mean remove the assets, books computers etc, and moving them to another facility or selling them. After the building is empty what could it then be used for? I see it sitting empty and vacant. What would then be the cost, to carry the vacant asset on the City’s’ books
Without a future use or a plan on selling the asset even in this crappy market why close it.
From a government stand point the argument to close can be made. There is a much newer library not far away, but the OB library is across the street from a school where the Ocean Beach children get there first introduction to libraries.
The city has to create more revenue how does this happen? I have some ideas but they are certainly not going to be popular


Lane Tobias November 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm

Wonderful article. I am glad that the OB Rag is on the same page as some concerned residents of OB. With all the numbers in perspective, we need to take action.

On more than one occasion, I have waited on a long line of people for the doors to open. The closing of 17 branches of the library will severely limit the ability of average folk to access cultural materials for personal use – and in OB, I believe that even though we may not require a large facility, we are entitled to this service all the same. Most importantly, this will prevent parents who cannot afford to buy books important to the development of their children from improving their childrens’ comprehension. It is widely accepted that public libraries are essential as a supplement to public education in order for children to improve reading skills and comprehension – as well as instilling a respect and love for books that in today’s technological society is severely lacking.

In response to this appalling development, I have secured a meeting space to discuss further actions and possible responses to this issue for Tuesday night of next week in Ocean Beach. If you are interested in joining me or would like to offer your support in this effort, please contact me at so we can plan accordingly.

In the meantime, assume the worst – with libraries and rec centers gone, what kind of message will we be sending children?


Frank Gormlie November 12, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Anna, Stu – excellent points.
Lane Tobias – just to note, 7 libraries not 17 are on the chopping block. Plus, please join us in front of the OB Library on Sat, Nov. 15th at noon. Where is your reserved meeting space for next Tuesday, the 18th?


Lane Tobias November 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

The meeting space is reserved for 6:30 – 8:30pm at the People’s Co-op Community Room. Capacity is 19, so it would be in the best interest of everyone to notify ahead of time if you are planning on joining.


apologize for the typo – although in my opinion, 1 library is one too many.


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