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L.A. city libraries face shorter hours and Sunday closures

Sergio Castillo, shown in 2008, reads a magazine at the Los Angeles Public Library Pico-Union branch. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Spending a lazy Sunday afternoon at L.A.’s public libraries may no longer be an option because of a citywide hiring freeze and the early retirements this year of more than 100 library employees. The Board of Library Commissioners will vote Thursday on a plan for Sunday closures at the city’s Central Library and eight regional libraries, which house larger collections than the 64 branch libraries scattered throughout the city.

Friday-morning hours were cut at regional and branch libraries in November to absorb the city employee furloughs that were part of this year’s budget deal. Though the city set aside money for 1,132 library positions this year, nearly 100 of those jobs are vacant and cannot be filled because of the hiring freeze. In addition, 107 library employees signed up for the city’s early retirement plan, which was offered to 2,400 Los Angeles employees last fall to help address the budget crisis

Library officials say Sundays are one of the days with the fewest patrons. If the plan is approved by commissioners, employees will be reassigned to ensure that other branches can stay open. The 64 branch libraries are already closed on Sundays.

Under the proposal, which would take effect in mid-April, all of the city’s libraries would also close two hours earlier -- 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. -- on Mondays and Wednesdays. The eight regional libraries --Arroyo Seco, Exposition Park, Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood, Mid-Valley, North Hollywood, San Pedro, West Valley and West Los Angeles -- would open at noon rather than 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Roy Stone, president of the Librarians’ Guild AFSCME Local 2626, said the early retirements and hiring freeze have created major scheduling headaches, especially when employees are out sick or on jury duty.

“We can barely get by,” Stone said. “This will allow the staffing to be more concentrated during those hours that we’re open, so when you don’t have enough staff you can get by. Everybody is just working as hard as they can to maintain service hours now.”

With the city facing a $485-million budget gap next fiscal year, the city's libraries could face far more drastic cuts. Twenty librarians, 20 library clerks and 60 messenger clerks are on the list of the first 1,000 job cuts authorized by city leaders this year. But because of an agreement with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, those employees would not be laid off until July 1.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who heads the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, said city officials are continuing to explore options to make sure libraries stay open during their busiest hours, which he said are from 3:30 p.m. to closing. 

LaBonge said the city should also seek partnerships with private donors who could help keep the lights on at branch libraries, which cost $40,000 a week to operate.

“We are trying not to lose the young, dedicated team of professionals,” he said. “We want to keep these libraries open as many hours as we can.”

-- Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

Photo: Sergio Castillo, shown in 2008, reads a magazine at the Los Angeles Public Library Pico-Union branch. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

RELATED: 

L.A. City Hall fears ripple effect of layoffs

L.A. city retirements threaten a deep and lasting legacy

L.A. City Council orders 3,000 more job cuts

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

While this sounds dire, does the LAT have access to how many users each branch and regional library actually serves? And why do librarians need a union?

So now my kids will have to find somewhere else safe for them during the summer...

Who needs libraries?
Museums?
Schools?
Roads?
Hospitals?
Taxes?
Elected officials?

no furloughs and layoffs.

LDM

we will be open during the summer

Frank

without a union we'd all be laid off by now.

@LDM Hate to break it to you, but libraries ARE not safe places to leave your kids unattended.

Related news...
LAUSD is shutting down many of its school libraries as well. The school I work at found out this week that the library will be closing. Unfortunate news.

In response to Frank: You can call the Library and ask these questions. This is what the Library does. We have all the statistics.

And, why wouldn't librarians need a union? Since there's management and labor practices present, why wouldn't the employees have a union to represent their interests?

The Library is the most significant public service offered to the citizens of this or any other city, notwithstanding the Fire and Police Departments. Don't close the libraries.

The wealthiest country in the world...

.....libraries open on sundays???...that in itself seems so dumb. i do agree that libraries should open later and stay open until 10-12 o'clockish and while we are at it, some of these people who have parking fines, or violate court orders ought to be ordered to community service in the library system ......and visitors pay a fee for internet use, so many are using the computers to play games or watch videos instead of job or intellectual research, taking up space and clogging the system.......

When are we going to get the City Council to give back ALL of that unbudgeted slush fund of theirs? How many millions is that again?

A friend of mine works at a branch library. He says half the "clients" are the homeless. The place is a mess. The library management, the usual high level government bureaucrats, located downtown should be fired. They have run the libraries into the ground with their usually government mismanagement. As for the homeless - send them to Nevada so Harry Reid can take care of them or San Francisco so the dreadful Nancy Pelosi can handle it with her usual welfare spending.

The library has been visited 17 million times by job seekers, children doing homework assignments, elderly looking for information on illnesses and medications, avid readers, etc. 17 million visits! Doesn't that prove that we are a vital service?

We provide this service using at most 3.5% of the General Fund. Why are we being asked to take an 11% cut this year out of hundreds of City Departments?

Please send letters to the Mayor and City Council asking these questions. Thank you.

www.savethelibrary.org

Community libraries and school libraries are an incredible community resource. Not only do they provide a wide array of books and learning materials for children and adults, but they teach a really important lesson to our children that some of the adults have forgotten - sharing and returning.

The library is not just a place with free internet and books; oftentimes they are de facto community centers. When you cut hours, you cut community involvement and facilitate isolation. These cuts would mean fewer hours for literacy programs and services to children (among others). Does the Council really want to send the message that they don't care about the welfare of their communities? (Or do they just want to continue giving themselves pay increases?)

Frank:
Your answers are posted here, on the library web page. It's publicly available.

http://www.lapl.org/newsroom/2010_facts.html

Ah, here it is... the City Council's $40 million personal slush fund. Can someone tell me when this will go back into the general budget?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/02/as-the-city-grapples-with-a-212-million-shortfall-los-angeles-controller-wendy-greuel-called-on-city-council-members-wednes.html


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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