To the editor:
I am writing to ask that the Alexandria City Council restore the funds to the library budget so that we do not have to cut hours.
In this tough economy, the library system is too important to maintaining a skilled workforce. It is too important in providing job search opportunities for people — young and old — who are looking to enter the paid workforce or improve their prospects in it. It is too important for us to make cuts that would mean our branches would only be open late one night a week.
We know the quantitative impact of such cuts in hours because we lost 17 percent of our budget in fiscal 2010 and cut back operating times then. We lost several thousand visitors. Also, many people lost heart and trust that our libraries would be open when they needed them.
This past year, we were able to restore the hours, but just when confidence has been restored — as well as our number of visitors — we are threatened with cuts again.
These cuts not only have a quantitative impact, but they have a qualitative effect on the reputation of our great city and people’s sense of the importance of living here. After all, Alexandria’s library system goes back to 1794. And we are fortunate enough to have a city manager that is one of the directors of the national Urban Libraries Council. Finally, we are fortunate enough to have a city council working hard to restore library resources.
In Alexandria, people are lined up in the morning at every branch waiting for the doors to open. People are eager to get into the library for traditional uses, for computer needs, for job searches, and to do their homework or research.
People also flock to the library after school and after work. Two years ago, people were turning away in disappointment when the library took that hit to its budget and trimmed back hours. Then they were thrilled last year when evening hours were restored two nights per week.
Now we are asking you again to help us avoid another reduction in hours. Alexandria is a great city that deserves the most highly educated and job-ready population that our libraries, working together with our schools, can help produce.
To serve this role, we ask you to help our public libraries to truly function as the “universities of the streets,” which the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie spoke about decades ago, for as many hours a week as possible.
– Helen R. Desfosses
Alexandria Library Board member