Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A fascinating turn of events

So! Remember when I wrote about the city of Philadelphia attempting to make up a billion dollar budget shortfall by making huge cuts to city departments, including closing 11 libraries and laying off 110 staff? Matters have taken a fascinating turn:

Neighborhoods losing their libraries were understandably upset, and some filed a lawsuit to prevent the library closings. Today, a judge granted the injunction to prevent the library closings on the quite reasonable grounds that the mayor neglected the little detail of the law requiring city council approval for closing city facilities. The mayor is a bit of a high-handed moron.

But here's where it gets fascinating: the reason libraries were being closed was that there was no way to cut the library budget without cutting staff (since staffing makes up 85% of the budget), and staffing is already thin enough that losing any more positions meant that not all libraries could be adequately staffed. But the layoffs have already happened. People are leaving their jobs this week. And even if they somehow rehired all of the laid off people, they had managed to get the number fired down to 59 by reducing the rest of the positions through attrition - people retiring, quitting or transferring.

I truly don't know what they're going to do. There has been a truly moronic plan floating around for all of the libraries in the city to be open three days a week, which sounds like a nightmare of confusion for both patrons and staff. But how are they going to keep the libraries open without enough people to run them? And if they start hiring, where is the money going to come from?

The money issue is the sticker, and the reason that while I don't like the idea of closing libraries, particularly when we thought it could be affecting us badly, I couldn't see an alternative. The city really is short on money and cuts are being made across the board. Even the mayor is taking a pay cut. I can't point to any place they could take the money from, and as valuable as I think libraries are, I think police and sanitation are pretty important too. It sucks to lose your closest library, but the ones closed were the smallest ones and no person in the city will live more than two miles from a library branch.

All I know is that whatever happens, the next few weeks are going to be highly interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment