Almost a dozen Birmingham Public Library supporters and employees addressed members of the Birmingham City Council Thursday during the city’s 2013 budget hearing to speak out against proposed cuts to the system’s budget.
The budget proposed by Mayor William Bell would decrease the library’s material budget nearly $125,000. The system requested one million dollars for materials, which are defined as books, DVDs, eBooks, music, databases and periodicals.
The proposed budget for 2013 is $640, 624, which is dramatically smaller than 2010’s $1.3 million.
“These citizens have already suffered the consequences of previous drastic cuts. In the past two years we have cancelled numerous resources that people used inside the library and at home on their computers 24 hours a day,” Library Director Renee Blalock said as she addressed council members.
Councilman Steven W. Hoyt told representatives that he has heard from several supporters, volunteers and former employees regarding the budget cuts. “I do know the importance of the library,” Hoyt said. “You do so much good. More than what you said today.
For its part, the library has been urging patrons to call and e-mail council members about the proposed cuts, even leaving several complaints at the meeting. “I want to make it easy for the city council to do the right thing,” Blalock said “It’s a real tough time for them. They’re trying really hard to balance the budget with revenue and I understand that. I want the voice of the community to be strong for the library so they think ‘Oh, this is what my constituents want.’”
Birmingham citizens like Rikesha Foster have written to council members to describing how they use library services and expressing concern about the cuts. “I find myself using the library even as a professional,” she wrote. “I complete tons of paperwork that my job requires on the library computers after I leave work because the library often gives me a sense of peace and quietness that my place of work does not give.
The library will continue to ask library patrons to speak out until the final decision is made, according to Blalock.
Birmingham resident Stephanie Mills said local libraries keep the city’s young people occupied and out of trouble. “They’re either going to spend money here and let our juvenile citizens have something to do or they’re going to have to spend it in juvenile hall,” she said. Mills and her children use the library about once a week. “They have so many things that you can research and they have so many helpful people here. It’s just great,” she said.
Rodney Jones brings his children to the downtown library often and says it’s essential to the city. “The library should be the last thing they cut,” he said. “If they’re going to invest in the future, why would they cut resources?”
Mia Watkins is a Weld Local correspondent and a regular contributor to Second Front. Send your feedback to email@example.com.