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L.A. library transfers to cost a buck?

April 16, 2008 |  6:00 pm

Readinggraphic

In the face of a citywide budget crisis, the Los Angeles Public Library is proposing a service charge for books circulated through inter-library loan. If approved, the $1-a-book fee will take effect July 1.

If this were a kind of luxury tax, it wouldn't seem all that bad. I mean, a dollar, right? But some people are concerned that it'll affect the smallest, least-funded branch libraries -- and their patrons -- the most. That's why they've launched this blog urging people to write to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and library leaders and to organize opposition to the fee before the May 1 City Council hearing on the library's budget.

There are about 70 branches of the L.A. Public Library serving the city's readers (a few branches are currently closed for repairs). Obviously, not all branches can have every book, but most are available within the library system -- via inter-library loans -- for free. Author Cecil Castellucci, who volunteers at a public school in Echo Park, told the no-fee campaign organizers:

As a read-aloud volunteer at Mayberry Elementary school, I use this service to get the perfect books to read to the students. For example, I used the inter-library loan service to get books on opera to read aloud to the kids in preparation for their field trip to the L.A. Opera. As a young adult author, I find it appalling to be charging $1 for an inter-library loan.

While the organizers are soliciting suggestions for how to support the library, I know of one sure way coming up April 30. It's the library's annual gala dinner, a fund-raiser for the library foundation that this year will honor author Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove," "Terms of Endearment," "The Last Picture Show"). Tickets are $750 apiece. Sure, that's a lot of smackers; but it would also pay for a lot of books zooming around the city through inter-library loans.

Carolyn Kellogg

photo by Tom Martin via Flickr

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