Despite Measure Q, Oakland libraries may be hit hard in new budget

Cutting library resources in Oakland will have very very negative repercussions.  How do we encourage our youth to use learning resources around them, when there might possibly might no resources for them to utilize? Please read and stay informed in what is going on in our community.

Via Oakland Local

Oakland Public Library Director Carmen Martinez has been in financial battles before, but this upcoming budget firefight – which threatens to closure of most of the library system’s branches – may truly test her mettle.

If the worst scenario budget proposal from the mayor passes – Budget A – the library system will see the vast majority of its branches, 12 total, shuttered because of low funds. Only four regional libraries will remain open; the main branch, 81st Avenue, Dimond and Rockridge.

Under the slightly less draconian Budget B, only $400,000 from the city’s general fund will be cut from the library system’s budget, but that means the system will not  be able to collect its Measure Q money, which funds the vast majority of library services.

Under Budget C, if there are employee concessions, plus passage of a proposed parcel tax, the library service will see no reductions in its department for the two year fiscal cycle.

In addition to funding challenges, the library service also is looking at a possible organizational change that will bring it under the same roof as the city’s Department of Human Services and the Office of Parks and Recreation as part of a newly created Life Enrichment Agency.

Oakland is currently in the midst of serious budget challenges including a $58 million budget shortfall that it has to plug. A $76 million deficit is expected for the following fiscal year.

It was only a few years ago that it appeared the library systems’ finances were secured when voters went to the booth in 2004 and approved by 77 percent Measure Q – which allowed the Oakland Public Library to maintain crucial services at a time of major state and city cutbacks.

Because of city funding problems, nine branches were threatened with closure at that time. In response, concerned residents banded together and rallied for Measure Q. Martinez said it was a grassroots campaign.

“Supporters stood on street corners with FAQ sheets, signs were made and held up at City Council meetings,” she said.

Martinez said Measure Q supporters wrote the measure carefully.

“We wrote it so that the city had to guarantee a GPF (general purpose fund) of over $9 million,” she said. “If we slipped below this threshold, we would not be able to collect our Q funds. So we enjoyed a dedicated budget since late 2004, when it passed.”

Martinez said the benefits of the extra funding was almost immediate.

“We finally had a solid and respectable materials budget, (more) teen librarians to hire, more days and hours for the public to enjoy and use the library, lots of positive things came with the new funds, which doubled our old budget,” she said.

The measure also has a stipulation that there must be a percentage of money from the city’s general fund in order for the tax to be collected. In the mid-cycle budget of 2010-2011 the system’s budget was nearly $24 million, with close to $14 million coming from Measure Q.

Martinez said the current budget proposals goes against the spirit of Measure Q.

“So here we are again, and this time, however, the public is looking at it as a breach of trust,” Martinez said. “We got together, we organized, we passed this ordinance and now you, the very people who are supposed to protect our money, our citizen rights to raise this money through taxes, are taking it away.”

One of the Measure Q authors was Quan and she said that it was very difficult to even consider cutting library funding.

“If you know me, you know that (cutting) is the absolute last option,” she said. “He (interim City Administrator Lamont Ewell) almost had to hold a gun to my head to do Scenario A where we close libraries.”

Keeping library services in place is critical for Oakland, Martinez said.

“It’s one of the most important public services in the city,” she said. “All the data, all of

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