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SAN FERNANDO : Planned Rally Aimed at Rescuing Library

With budget cuts that have left the San Fernando branch of the Los Angeles County Library teetering on the brink of obsolescence, the library manager is organizing a march on San Fernando City Hall to try to save it.

“I don’t sleep at night,” said Judith Babka, manager of the library, which has been in San Fernando for 80 years. “I’ve been in libraries for more than 40 years in five different countries. I can’t believe this is happening to a public library system that serves so many people.”

Babka, who is originally from Australia, will lead the march Aug. 15, the same time as a 6 p.m. San Fernando City Council hearing on whether to approve a community facilities district to pay for the library. Under the proposal, the city would charge single-family houses $28.50 a year to support the library. Other residential properties would pay less.

San Fernando is one of 52 cities in Los Angeles County that are considering setting up assessment districts to save their public libraries.

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The library’s annual budget to buy books, magazines and other materials has been cut steadily in recent years, from $48,500 in the 1991-92 fiscal year to $500 for 1993-94. The library currently has no materials budget and is running on funds borrowed from other county sources until its fate is decided.

Budget cuts last year forced the library to cut the number of days it is open from six days a week to three. If the assessment district is not approved, the library would only be able to stay open two days a week, Babka said.

“If this measure does not pass, we will not have any materials budget,” said Babka, explaining that the library would have no resources to buy new books, but may be able to buy a handful of magazine subscriptions. “In the long run, that means we go out of business, because we would be obsolete.”

Anticipating budget cuts, Babka started hitting the streets in recent months, selling T-shirts and trying to collect donations as well as resurrecting Friends of the San Fernando Library, a support group that had been inactive since the mid-1980s.

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