Gloria will look to maintain library hours after proposed budget slashed them

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Inside the San Diego Public Library branch in Mission Hills.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Following a San Diego City Council Budget Review Committee hearing on the library budget Thursday, Mayor Todd Gloria said he will attempt to maintain library service hours — a reversal from his original proposed budget which cut service to five days a week.

“I am committed to working with the library director, Department of Finance and the City Council to offer a proposal in the May Revise to restore library hours,” Gloria said. “It is my intent to get back to a seven-day-a- week schedule across our library system over the next year. Staff is still working through the details, but more information will be released later this month.”

Gloria proposed a $4.6 billion budget in April, factoring in more than $300 million in one-time federal relief the city is receiving as part of the American Rescue Plan. San Diego was facing an expected budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year of $124 million — more than the entire Parks and Recreation Department’s budget — before President Joe Biden signed the relief bill.

However, even with these funds, Gloria proposed reducing the city’s library hours to Tuesday through Saturday, a savings of $6.9 million, his staff estimated.

The San Diego Public Library has 36 locations and more than 5 million items in its collection.

This in the same budget proposing to increase police spending by $19 million — much of which is non-discretionary.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, one of the proposed library reduction’s most vocal opponents, expressed her desire to maintain service levels throughout the city and particularly in underserved communities like those in her district.

“Our libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible and 100% free educational resource centers for every member in our communities,” she said. “At a library, it doesn’t matter how much money you make because every resource there is free of charge, including books, Internet access and educational and professional training programs.

“Individuals and families, no matter their socioeconomic status, can count on their libraries to provide them with the resources they need to succeed and the answers to important questions they can’t otherwise find,” Moreno continued. “Our libraries are one of the only places that many residents and students in District 8 are able to access the Internet and have a safe place to study. The digital divide exists in my district and replacing hours the library is open with digital services is unacceptable.”

Gloria’s proposed budget also includes an organizational restructuring, including replacing hourly positions with benefited, salaried positions. This, according to a staff report, will fill numerous vacancies and help stanch the bleeding — the library has a 25% attrition rate, according to a staff report.

“We acknowledge and thank Mayor Gloria, the office of the IBA, and San Diego City Council for a Library Department budget hearing this morning that strongly encourages the restoration of proposed cuts to the library’s budget,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. “It was clear that the long overdue investments in materials, e-resources and programming were recognized as necessary additions to the library’s ability to effectively serve the community.

“However, we encourage City Council to recognize the department’s need to organize staffing in a manner that effectively and sustainably supports the ability to reopen and deliver these core, essential services for years to come,” he said.

The budget proposal recommends spending levels for city operations and capital projects for Fiscal Year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The final budget will be adopted in June following several weeks of review by the public and the City Council.

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