At the library taskforce meeting yesterday, library director Bruce Guter presented the city's plan to keep the library open for another year, *but* with major cuts in services. It appears that the library is still under major threat. Unfortunately the city's plan requires laying off all the long term librarians on August 15 (the director included) and replacing them with people paid by the hour. This is a classic corporate strategy of laying off long term workers who make reasonable salaries to hire less experienced, less qualified (and less invested) people at much lower wages. Guter seemed resigned to fall on this sword. Given the lack of forward political thinking about the library over the last few years, however, I'd be willing to bet that it is not his own sword that is running him through, but one held out to him by the city.
The library will lose one of its major assets: the librarians. They are the people who
develop collections and programs, help students with projects, help people find
books and resources, take care of those resources, and maintain the
technology. Librarians are experts at finding all kinds of stuff, and at helping
people to use the library's resources to find what they need.
Professors, teachers, students, moms, kids, job seekers, home owners, pet owners, gardeners, entrepreneurs, reporters, attorneys, leisure readers all rely on librarians. Under the city's
latest plan, even if the doors of the library stay open, the quality and
maintenance will not be there. It is a tragedy to watch the politicians slowly destroy this institution that is one of Pomona's proudest and oldest features.
A few months ago the city had a proposal to outsource the
library on the table, but it did not go forward because of public
pressure. Now they are trying to do the same thing, but this time under
cover of the citizens' taskforce. Don't get me wrong, the taskforce is amazing.
Many concerned people gather with great ideas and energy for saving the
library. Yet the evidence would suggest that the city is
working in the background to undercut the process and to get what they
wanted all along.
One of the taskforce working groups has suggested that there may still be money to be found within the existing city budget--pockets of money here and there. But if there is no political will, there is no political way. According to the Daily Bulletin, Paula Lantz lays the political blame with the people, when she says that no one complained at the prior cuts. According to this article, Lantz said, "I don't recall getting a single email or a single phone call saying, `How dare you.'"
But Lantz apparently forgets that the earlier threat to the library was (intentionally?) eclipsed by the threats to the police department. Many people turned out to speak to the city council about the library a couple of years back, but weren't able to speak, partly because there was so much to say about the police, and partly because Mayor Rothman severely delayed proceedings. (I should note that these same circumstances are being repeated right now with the Parks; the outsourcing of Park maintenance and the loss of more public jobs are being completely eclipsed by the threat to the library. Those who came to the council budget meeting to speak about the Parks couldn't get a word in edgewise.)
I would like to hear politicians and city staff talk about how to make the library flourish rather than to talk about how further to decimate one of the city's most important institutions. The library is a testament to the kind of city Pomona once was. The actions of the city's caretakers will show whether they wish to reinvigorate Pomona and restore it to its former stature or just hammer more nails into the goddess's coffin.