Fight to keep libraries open

November 10, 2008 8:42:47 PM PST
The economic crisis has led to serious budget cuts in Philadelphia, and branch libraries are some of the victims.Monday night, people in Fishtown took to the streets to protest the loss of their library.

Chanting "Books before the budget," a crowd of parents and other community members rallied in front of the Fishtown Library, a branch slated to be closed in just two months.

It's one of 11 libraries on the list to be shut down under Mayor Michael Nutter's proposed budget cuts.

Like other public libraries in Philadelphia, the Fishtown Library offers after-school programs with staff on-hand to help with homework.

It also has internet access unavailable at many homes.

"It's like as soon as you enter, you just learn. And that's a great experience for children," said Jared Fraley of Fishtown.

Fishtown has had its own library for almost 60 years. Renea Kotarba grew up going there, and she wanted the same for her two young daughters.

"With the pre-school being right around the corner, it's easy. They can just walk around the corner," Kotarba said. "The closest one now is in Port Richmond.

Mayor Nutter, attending an event Monday night for the Center for Literacy, promises school libraries and local rec centers will now have expanded services.

He adds, shutting down the 11 libraries for good will save the city about $8 million toward bridging the one billion dollar budget gap of the next five years.

"It's not something that I want to do. It's unfortunate, we have to make sure that the city is fiscally sound," Mayor Nutter said.

City Councilman Bill Green disagrees, saying more could be done to keep the libraries open.

"We have a chief Executive Officer who makes $200,000 a year. The Mayor can go to the Ethics Board, the Solicitor, like the rest of us. He's got an 'Office of Sustainability,' that has a 1 million dollar a year budget," Green said.

For more information, contact Friends of the Free Library


Phone: (215) 567-4562
On the web: www.libraryfriends.info

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