Save the Libraries: Throw the Book(s) at the Mayor

by on April 21, 2021 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Colleen O’Connor

How unenlightened can the Mayor’s budget be?

Cut the libraries, the staff, the books, the safety net for children, the local artists’ displays, story times for the pre-schoolers and lots of books and computer access for seniors, students, the homeless, and others who cannot afford the luxury of private ownership.

How is this sanity?

All great cities house a great library. Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève in Paris; Trinity College Library in  Dublin; Real Gabinete Português de Leitura in Rio de Janeiro; National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague; and of course the New York and Seattle Public Libraries.

One of history’s greatest laments, the burning of the ancient world’s single greatest archive of knowledge, the Library of Alexandria, remains a mystery.

No such mystery exists about the planned cuts and neglect of San Diego’s libraries.

The Mayor wants to take public monies from the libraries to help fund an expansion of the budgetary black hole called a convention center.

After all, the library’s political clout of does not match that of his donors’. Take the money away from books and ideas and the people in San Diego’s once bustling neighborhoods.

People live in their neighborhoods.  People don’t live in the convention center.  That should be the Mayor’s budgetary priority.

Andrew Carnegie, the father of public library systems, was right, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.   It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”

What has the City done to the Carnegie legacy?  Cut library hours.  Cut library days.  Cut library staff.  And promise what in return?  Expanding a convention center that never pays for itself.

I am not conflicted in my indignation.  I am, in fact, a great beneficiary of San Diego’s libraries.

As a SDSU student, I often dropped into the USD Law Library to study in its welcoming, then quiet, environs.  (No longer possible)

As a UCSD graduate student, I wandered and wondered at the elegance and grace of that repository of so much history and knowledge, all available to me, a forever lover of learning.

As a post-graduate at the University of Oxford, I reveled in the Bodleian, one of the oldest and most architecturally interesting libraries in Europe, housing over 13 million printed items.

However, one of my most memorable library encounters happened at the Point Loma Hervey Library; a private/public partnership endeavor.

It was in the middle of the Harry Potter craze.  I purchased and read every one of JK Rowling’s fabulous novels.  As did most millennials who now (contrary to popular thought) prefer actual books in hand to computer reading.

So enamored was I, with Pottermania, and the resurgence in reading among the young, that I began to purchase a few boxes of them to give to the library.  I wanted to share something with the youngsters I often saw at the library in after-school hours.

This particular morning, I arrived, before opening hours, with a box full of the latest installment of Potter’s Wizardy to find a young child (probably no more than 8 or 9) sitting on the planter wall outside.

As I approached, he eyed the box as if it contained great treasures.  I don’t now remember if the Harry Potter logo was printed on the box.  But, he did shyly ask what was inside.  I opened the box to reveal the wonderful, freshly printed book covers, that even I had come to admire.

His face lit up as if an apparition appeared.  When I asked if he liked, or had read, any of the series, he reverentially, and quietly responded, “Yes.”

I handed him the top copy to hold and to have.  He did not understand. He gently held the book, stroked the cover as if it were a newborn (which of course, literally speaking, it was), and handed it up to me.

He simply didn’t believe such a joy was his to keep.  Going into the library, to deposit the remainder of the box, I looked back to see him still in awe of his great treasure; a book.  With all the wonders inside.

I often think of him and become even more indignant when this Mayor  (like others before him) wants to cut the library budgets; to restrict access to books for children like this boy. Books in print, books on-line, books on shelves, books yet to be written, in great libraries and great cities.

Worse still, to limit the safe refuge for many children after school.

To which I respond, “Save the Libraries:  Throw the book(s) at the Mayor.”






{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas April 21, 2021 at 3:14 pm

You might want to read Penelope Fitzgerald’s “The Book Shop” or watch the film on Amazon Prime. An ode to books.


Don Wood April 21, 2021 at 7:53 pm

One problem. Nobody knows how many library users contributed to Todd Gloria’s mayoral campaign. But Todd knows exactly how many big hotel owners and the construction unions (who will benefit the most from yet another convention center expansion) gave to his campaign. As long as special interests can buy the office of the mayor and city council members regular city residents who depend on the library system don’t have much of a chance.


Sam April 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

Why are we concerned about cutting off library services to the homeless? I’m quite certain that the librarians, whom you claim to want to help, would have an entirely different point of view of that matter.


Gravitas April 24, 2021 at 8:02 am


“One of the most controversial aspects of the proposed budget has been Gloria’s cuts to public libraries, which involve laying off 153 employees and keeping libraries from Tuesdays to Saturdays each week – a $5.6 million cut from last year’s budget.”


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman April 27, 2021 at 5:56 pm

What is it about us that generations of San Diego politicians feel comfortable rolling out proposals to cut Library hours and staff? Closed on Sundays? Mondays too? It is so NOT okay. It is totally unacceptable. Mayor Gloria needs to realign his priorities and get in a Library frame of mind: trim that proposed increase in Police Department funding and maintain Library everything. That would be a community-minded budget plan.

As for librarians and the homeless, I recommend that Sam read Susan Orlean’s wonderful “A Library Book” (2018) about the fascinating history and building of Los Angeles Central Library. Orlean pointedly illustrates that public librarians regard homeless people in urban spaces as part of their constituency who deserve their attention, time and energy to be well-served.


Gravitas May 19, 2021 at 9:48 am

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: