As a result of a ballot initiative passed in March 2011, all 73 Los Angeles public libraries returned to pre-2010 service hours on Oct. 15, reopening their doors on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings, after budget cuts forced Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to reduce hours last year.
Due to the effects of the recession, in 2010 Los Angeles dramatically cut the budget for the city’s library system, laying off more than a fourth of library staffers and reducing service hours to five days a week.
In an attempt to halt cuts in library services, a coalition of lobbyists joined forces in 2011 to advance Measure L, which allocates funds towards the city’s libraries by increasing each library’s share of city funding without implementing new taxes.
Measure L will divert larger shares of the city’s property taxes to the library system, with the objective of distributing $130 million a year to libraries, according to KPCC, a Southern California public radio station.
“’L’ stands for libraries and ‘L’ stands for love,” City Councilman Tom LaBonge said at a press conference at Central Library on Jul. 18. “The passage of Measure L proves that we in Los Angeles love our libraries.”
Critics, however, labeled Measure L ballot-boxing budgeting, and said that the reform will ensure greater library funding at the cost of other spending on public safety and recreation programs.
Among these opponents was the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, which published an article on Feb. 14 titled “Vote no on Measure L,” referring to Measure L as a “laudable goal, but a bad solution.”
The editorial went on to say, “Mandatory funding proposals such as Measure L ask voters to make choices about particular programs without knowing how those choices will affect the rest of the budget. This is why The Times opposes them.”
Despite partisan politics and fiscal grievances, the majority of the public favors the expansion of library hours.
Educators and parents claim that libraries are the largest provider of after-school workspace, providing resources such as computers and Internet access to those who cannot afford them.
“By reopening our libraries on Mondays, we reopen the doors of opportunity for thousands of children and families who look to their local library as a place of learning, safety, and community,” City Council President and 2013 Mayoral Candidate Eric Garcetti said in a Los Angeles Public Library report.
Yasi ’13, who frequently studies at the Pasadena Public Library, which is technically not in the city of L.A., said she is excited about the extension of hours and encourages city-dwellers to take advantage.
“I go to public libraries to get books for Honors Research or just to study… it’s nice there because it is usually quieter,” she said. “Longer hours, especially on weekends, mean that I can accomplish more work.”
Service enhancements will continue, as libraries plan to introduce Sunday hours at nine regional libraries by 2014.