"We needed to move quickly with these drastic decisions," said Jacqui Lazo, board chair. "The library system was designed for a city twice the size of Pittsburgh today. We have more branches per capita than any other system our size." (P-G, Bob Hoover)
Lots to nitpick. The system was designed for a city twice the population of Pittsburgh today -- the city has remained exactly the same size however. Utilizing the library system will become much more difficult than at any point in its past, especially considering public transit has only worsened.
Also, did we only just discover this $1.2 million projected budget deficit? Has the board also been "doing its homework" in going after grants and stimulus dollars? Green libraries, anyone? I don't understand the need for self-described drastic quickness.
Finally, was it wise to have only recently converted a few of our public libraries into flashy and exotic digital spaceships? Is the Forbes and Murray branch going to be regarded as the Colfax Annex of the library system? I wouldn't want to be discovered in Squirrel Hill when the revolution comes.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called for an independent audit of the library budget by the Regional Assets District board "so that we know how the money is being spent. A lot of people don't know what's happening at the library. (P-G, Hoover and Schaarsmith)
If it turns out we are getting ripped off by corrupt fat cat librarians, that will really be surprising.
The latter article has reactions from Doug Shields and Chelsa Wagner, but here are some snippets from press releases that didn't find their way into the papers:
Natalia Rudiak: These decisions were not simply made in a two hour meeting—they have been deliberated over a long period of time—and it’s inexcusable that our City and State has not been proactive in dealing with this issue before such a devastating announcement. The City has been contributing the same $40,000 to the libraries every year since 1895, and State Republicans are pushing for steep cuts of 38% to overall library spending...
...I support District 4’s current City Councilman in his vow to identify more funding to allow the reversal of the board of trustee’s decision.
Kevin Acklin: Over the last several weeks, I’ve attended rallies at our city's libraries, made direct appeals to the Carnegie Library Board, and announced proposals that would help fund the Carnegie Library System and keep some of its branches from closing. This afternoon, Mr. Ravenstahl held a press conference — his first public statement on the library closings — and essentially told the people of Pittsburgh, "The libraries are closing, there is nothing I can do about it."
Dok Harris: These are tough times in Pittsburgh and around the country. These are times for belt tightening and smart investment. But closing libraries is not belt tightening; it’s the equivalent of chopping of limbs. Working families do not have the luxury of coming into Oakland to go the library; they are already overburdened, juggling work, child care, and other responsibilities. They need resources IN their communities.
That our Mayor has remained silent on this issue serves as just one more indicator that he doesn’t care about our neighborhoods. The Mayor will bend over backwards to accommodate campaign donors, but cannot be bothered to address the pressing issues of neighborhood violence, economic stagnation, closing libraries, and crumbling communities.