Updated: Tuesday Long Beach City Council agenda attached with details.
Two weeks ago my daughter and I walked into the Bayshore branch of the Long Beach Public Library, one of our favorite places in the Shore, and we were stunned to see a notice warning that our library is in danger of losing all its staff and services. I say "our" library because that is how we think of it. I have been taking my kids to this library since they were very small. They have attended story times, they have participated in summer reading clubs. They have researched homework projects with the the help of the wonderful librarians, and they have formed their own book clubs, again with the assistance of the librarians. Now they and their friends go on their own to the library to read, do homework, and enjoy some independence in a safe and positive environment.
Public libraries are a part of growing up in America. I clearly remember my earliest visits to my local public library. The building was monumental and auspicious. The ceiling seemed to soar hundreds of feet above my little head, and it felt like there were a million books waiting to be read. But all I wanted was to check out the same book every time, a strange picture book about a magical boy named Pe-di-doh, or something like that. He lived in a town where everything was colorless and somehow he painted the town with color. My mother tried to check out other books for me but that was the one I wanted because, for some reason, it was a wonderful fantasy world to me. I continued using the library as a teenager, checking out books for a report on Lincoln. There was one tome I failed to return. I lived in fear that the librarians would somehow track me down and turn me in to the authorities. Of course, we did not have digitally catalogued libraries then and who knows if the library knew I still had the book. Years later I guiltily stuffed the book into a library return bin, hoping that I had been granted amnesty.
The free public library is an American institution. Yet, today libraries across the state, and the country, are under attack. Budgets are being slashed and their ability to provide literature, newspapers, research materials, librarian guidance for young children or adult book clubs, and general community support is in grave danger.
I know that the Long Beach City Council is struggling to balance budgets, but I really think that cutting Public Library services is not the way to go. In a climate where school services have been cut, after school programs decimated, and city and state parks are in equal danger, I hope that our City Council can find a way to save our libraries. It would be a tragedy if our community loses this great resource. It is a gathering place, a learning center and so much more for our families.
I hope that you will add your voice to a call to keep our library staffed and open for our community. Budget hearings have already begun and are ongoing. A decision will be made in September, so time is short!
If Councilman DeLong and Mayor Foster hear enough objection to this terrible plan, then maybe we can turn it around. Call them, visit them and write to them.
Councilman DeLong can be emailed at his District 3 Office: District3@LongBeach.gov.
Mayor Foster can be emailed at: email@example.com.