Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees at the Los Angeles Public Library voted Thursday to cut the number of library hours by eight per week as part of the city’s larger plan to trim expenses by reducing public services.
In a 3-0 vote, the Board of Library Commissioners unanimously cut one day of service from each of the city’s 73 libraries, keeping them open five days a week starting July 6.
Villaraigosa’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 calls for the reduction of 761 employee positions. Of that total, at least 101 are in the Library Department. The city is scheduled to send layoff notices to those 101 workers next week, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.
The reductions drew criticism from Cary Brazeman, a spokesman for L.A. Neighbors United, a citizen group that has begun weighing in on the city’s budget process. Brazeman said the council should have looked elsewhere when seeking to save money.
“Libraries are sacred,” he said. “They’re a safe haven. They should be open seven days a week, period.”
Thursday’s vote came a few months after library commissioners voted to eliminate Sunday hours at the eight regional libraries. Those cuts were made as a result of an employee early retirement program that allowed 2,400 city workers to retire up to five years early with full pension benefits. Dozens of librarians were among those departing.
Library officials said the city’s ongoing financial crisis has forced their department to absorb a 28% reduction in its workforce. Nevertheless, they said they hope to minimize the latest round of cuts by preparing a dual-track, five-day schedule for branch libraries. For example, a library that is to be closed on Saturdays would be near a branch that would be open on that day.
The Central Library will remain on a fixed schedule — Tuesday through Saturday.
Council President Eric Garcetti, who voted for the cuts last month, said this week that he expects cuts to libraries and Fire Department service will be the first to be reversed once the city’s financial picture improves.
Hours at the city’s 64 branch libraries also have been reduced because of employee furloughs, or unpaid days off. Starting July 1, library employees will no longer be required to take part in that budget-cutting initiative.