City Councillors Arroyo and Turner Opposed to Library Closings

Before a hearing on BPL's proposed neighborhood library closings on March 8, at-large City Councillor Felix Arroyo and district Councillor Chuck Turner opposed any closings until other solutions had been exhausted, including an extensive process of public outreach, using city budget reserves to fund shortfalls,and every single cost-cutting measure has been explored. Their texts are below. Statements by other city councillors will be posted as they become available. To: Board of Trustees

From: Chuck Turner

Re: Maintaining our library system

Date: March 8, 2010

I am here today to announce that I am opposed to both of President Ryan’s proposals. I do not think that we should close 8 to 10 libraries or make drastic reductions in the hours at 18 branch libraries. Obviously, your question is where do we find the resources to fill the $3.6 million dollar budget gap.

I think that the financial answer is for the Mayor to take the money from the reserves to fill the gap. Last year the Mayor used $45 million from reserves to assure as firm a financial foundation for the school department as possible, as it moves forward to build a 21st century educational system. Since we provided support from reserves for our school system last year, we can certainly do the same for our library system this year.

The fact that the gap represents only 9% of the budget while President Ryan is proposing to close over 30% of the libraries suggests that the budget crisis is being viewed as an opportunity to change the way the library provides services. I have heard statements about poor circulation and foot traffic justifying the closures. Yet, I am not aware that during my ten years as a Councilor Central branch personnel have worked with the Friends groups at libraries where there is low circulation and foot traffic to develop strategies for increasing usage.

I realize all systems have to evolve over time. However, when change is imposed from the top, the resulting change is often negative because the views of those who are being affected were not taken into consideration.

I urge you to ask the Mayor to take money from the reserves to make up the budget shortfall. However, I would also urge you to designate staff to begin to work with the libraries that have the low circulation and foot traffic levels to develop strategies that maximize the delivery of appropriate services to those neighborhoods.

From: Felix Arroyo:

A full, unedited transcript of Councilor Arroyo's opening statement at the March 11th Boston City Council Post Audit and Oversight Committee follows.

Clearly, there is something pretty important happening in our city as it relates to libraries.  I want to state as clearly as possible; the more and more I think about this, I am at the position where I cannot support the closing of libraries without understanding why this is happening.  Frankly, I do not think I can sit here as an elected member of this body and tell you I understand why this is happening.  I know there are people in the community who care about these libraries who could not tell you why it is happening.

Also, I cannot support it without feeling like every single cost cutting measure that was possible-whether we deem it as symbolic, trivial or large-has been explored before we have gotten to the point of closing the libraries.

That being said, I do not support the closing of libraries because I have not yet been convinced of either of those things yet.

Growing up in the city, this is the only city that I have ever known.  The libraries played an important role in my life.  I remember the joy when my mother would bring me to the Hyde Park library as a kid.  To me, I had no idea it was an educational experience.  It was like a field trip when I went.  As I completed my Master's Degree in 2007, were it not for the people at the Copley Library helping me and walking me through my many research projects, I would not have been able to complete it.  And those were every day working people helping me.  When we are talking about closing libraries, we are not only talking about the loss in the community of that treasure, we are also talking about the working men and women who have given their life to the city and are being told in this short period of time that their livelihood is at stake.  They do not know why.  I do not think that is appropriate.

I am also not ridiculous.  I know how to look at math.  I know numbers have to add up.  I get that, but I want to agree with my colleagues in this hearing who have stated it earlier.  This is not enough time.  I do not believe two months is enough time to develop an answer to these questions.  My ideal situation is we would find a way for these questions to be dealt with is

a reasonable period of time and more transparent-open to the public, with the workers, with the over 300,000 members of the library that have taken out library cards.  They are all a part of this conversation figuring out what is the best way of delivering services, what is the best to make this budget balance, what is the best way to raise revenue.  Until we get to that point, I think I have made my position as clear as I could possibly have made it.