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Fighting for targeted libraries

November 7, 2008 3:52:09 PM PST
As the City of Philadelphia deals with a major budget crisis, one of the hardest hit areas will be public libraries.Activists groups are already putting together campaigns to fight for the libraries.

They want to pressure city, state and federal politicians, demanding they do something to save these library branches.

School children at the Durham Free Library in Mantua were working on their homework Friday afternoon. The branch has one of the system's most vibrant after school programs.

Durham is also one of 11 branches targeted for shutdown by Mayor Michael Nutter's budget cuts, which is awful news for the children.

"In my grade we have a lot of projects, and we need to come here to research stuff, and not everybody has got a computer at their house, " said 7th grader India Turner. "My little brother comes here to do his homework, and my cousins and all, so I don't think they should close it down."

"I do my homework on the computer, read books and play games on the computer, and I talk to the people that work here and they help me with my homework," said 5th grader Briana Carter.

With 11 branch closings, city hall expects to save $8 million towards the billion dollar budget gap it must close over the next 5 years.

71 library employees are slated to be let go. City Hall says it is keeping 43 branches open, but a lot of Sunday hours will be cut.

In all a, permanent cut of 20% in services... forever.

"We looked at transportation routes, we look at demographics of each neighborhood, we looked where schools were most challenged, and were we trying to protect the services on those areas where schools were most challenged, " said Siobhan Reardon, President of the Free Library.

For many school children, the libraries are a safe place to go until their parents get home from work. As for adults, the computers at Durham are vital in this modern age.

"50% of the public here in Philadelphia doesn't have a computer in their home, so we are that access to the internet," Reardon said. "And their access to a PC to write their resume and do their job searches."

But taking the toughest hit, youngsters like Taquan Stanley of West Philadelphia, a regular at the Durham branch.

"They give people free books, they give them free DVDs, and they care about people," Stanley said.

Those layoffs are scheduled to go into effect on January 16th.

Ironically, the community will gather at the Durham branch on Saturday to dedicate a new mural painting on the outside wall of the library and an adjacent recreation center.

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