Save Birmingham Public Library Part 2!
Save Birmingham Public Library Part 2!
We need to have COMMUNITY INPUT for our public libraries! In 2020, the Birmingham Public Libraries were cut by millions of dollars after an unprecedented fast-tracked budget that did not enter the Budget and Finance Committee; no amendments for library funding were approved. Staffing has dramatically decreased and this year, once again, the City of Birmingham voted for a budget that further decreased funding to the public libraries. An article recently published, written by Roy S. Johnson, has this to say about comparable cities:
"Now, the city has 18 branches, a high number relative to our population (201,000), and among our Southeastern peers. Memphis (pop: 659,000 has 19 libraries; Nashville (700,000) has 21."
Nashville has 1,800 sworn officers on payroll. Birmingham has 912, plus professional staff. Nashville's population is 700,000, while Birmingham is 200,000. Nashville has 534 square miles, Birmingham has 148 square miles. If it was all about numbers, wouldn't Birmingham have ideally less than 1/3 the number of officers of Nashville, since there are far fewer people and there is less area to cover?
Mayor Woodfin: "If you have a library with a 1960s or 1970s model, but does not get the necessary foot traffic, and is literally in proximity of another library only one mile down the street, should both of those libraries be open?"
The annual reports for libraries are available online and show that each neighborhood branch has dedicated and consistent use, pre-COVID. It is vital that these remain operating especially in this struggling world with COVID and other crises compounded by the pandemic.
Mayor Woodfin: "If it comes down to it, this administration is willing to make the tough unpopular decision."
The tough task here is getting authentic community input. That means using more than the general report presented yearly to the Board of Trustees and left on the coblp.org website. It means getting into the heart of these neighborhoods, looking at more than just numbers. It means looking at who actually benefits from full closures and what the long-term plans are, and we believe the public has every right to know this entire process from beginning to end.
There has been very poor representation of the libraries during the initial COVID response and today; they have been open and operating at different levels since the staff and materials cuts, doing the best they can. The pandemic impacted us all but the messaging of the capacity of the libraries was muddled and careless, which lead to decreased use and misinformation. These libraries are part of the JCLC system and the effects on the city will be felt all across Jefferson County.
Libraries have a direct impact on the economic development of cities. This directly is impacted by “early literacy, workforce readiness, and small businesses. (Everylibrary.org)
The library creates upward mobility and lowers economic barriers.
• People with low incomes are 50% more likely to visit their library weekly.
• 35% of people who rely on library technology earn less than $30K.
• 27% of entrepreneurs say the library was key to starting their business
• In 2016, 113 million people attended library programs. That’s more than major league football, basketball, and baseball games combined.
Statistics from everylibrary.org
Libraries should be at the center of communities. Why shouldn’t the residents in Titusville have the same services as Southside or Avondale.
Urban public libraries across the world are doing more and more for their communities. In Austin, their central library is an impressive mixed-use community center (https://library.austintexas.gov/central-library)
In Baltimore the public library provides a bookmobile of sorts for job resources. The mobile unit is able to go to residents neighborhoods with extensive job resources including computers for residents to fill out online applications.
In 2008, during the great recession when the economy shrank, library program attendance increased +24%, circulation increased +28% (Everylibrary.org)
Not only should we fight the closing of smaller branches in Birmingham, we should demand more services from the city. Let’s fund the libraries fully so they can demonstrate their use and benefits to their communities. * https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/46006/1001075-Making-Cities-Stronger.PDF
The City of Birmingham has an obligation to properly fund public services like libraries that offer equitable education and safety to communities, especially those in poorer areas with fewer investments and no public transit. Libraries are valuable cultural hubs that do more than any Google search can do. We believe the city must do more for our libraries and not promote cutting entire neighborhood branches in a short-sighted goal to relocate resources. We want the public to know what is at stake and how to reacquaint themselves with their public library- we believe that the PUBLIC and the PATRONS of these libraries should have a say in what happens!
Help us spread the word and show how we love ALL our libraries! #NoCutsWithoutUs
Donate to BPL directly at this link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/supportbhampubliclibrary
Link to last year's petition: https://www.change.org/p/birmingham-city-council-residents-ask-you-to-save-birmingham-public-library