MARINA DEL REY : Library Is on County Budget-Cutters' List Again

The Marina del Rey library, which was almost closed last year, is on the critical list again. County library officials say the branch, among others, will be shut down unless the system can find $10 million to balance its budget.

Faced with severe cuts in funding under the proposed $14.2-billion county budget, the system may close 51 of its 87 libraries, mostly smaller ones.

"One could assume the Marina Library is one of those libraries," County Librarian Sandra Reuben said.

Libraries in West Hollywood and Culver City appear to be safe for now, and officials may tap a private endowment to keep the Malibu branch open.

A grass-roots group is scrambling to find the money to save the 53,000-volume Marina del Rey branch, which boasts a notable collection of recreational boating materials such as videos and maps. In addition to Marina del Rey, a community of about 10,000 people, the branch draws heavily from Venice, Playa del Rey and surrounding areas.

"We'd feel very much disenfranchised if we were to lose our library," said Greg Wenger, president of Save Our Library, a group of about 50 library-backers. "We feel it's a very important thing that makes a community what it is. It's like taking a church away."

The group has raised about $8,000 to date, but $100,000 is needed to operate the library for a year on its two-day-per-week schedule.

"We're looking for the corporate entities to come on board," Wenger said.

Library officials last year listed the Marina del Rey branch among 10 facilities it would most likely close, but a last-minute influx of money from the County Board of Supervisors and other sources enabled it to stay open two days a week.

Uncertain if more bailout money is coming, library officials have launched a fund-raising campaign of their own--"County Libraries Are Worth It"--which targets the system's 1.5 million cardholders.

"If each donates $10, we could make it," Reuben said.

The county library system ran into trouble last year when Gov. Pete Wilson shifted local property tax revenue to schools, a maneuver aimed at balancing the state budget. The switch cost the library system half of its $60-million budget.

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