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Ask the Expert

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Leah Pollack: Why city stewardship may save our libraries

Posted: October 14, 2010 9:17 p.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

It should be noted that nobody will be losing their county privileges when the city takes control of our three local libraries in Canyon Country, Valencia and Newhall. You still get to keep your county library card, and information will be accessible online.

During the last hearing where the transition was approved, I wished the evening had started with Marsha McLean’s late-hour comments. Those who did stay up late may have thought the same thing.

Councilwoman McLean said that according to the county’s Library Commission reports during the meetings she attended, the county’s budget concerns would expand and would have an impact on the health of the library system (i.e., heads up, the money is running out!), and the Santa Clarita libraries are not a priority, given the county’s financial woes (see www.colapublib.org/aboutus/commission.html).

The city of Santa Clarita decided to step in to take over the local libraries knowing a transition would take time, and better to do the transition before the money runs out.

Also, it is a shame that a current union-driven effort for legal issues waged against the city will only deplete county funding even more.

Library closures have been looming in Los Angeles. L.A. Weekly reported on Sept. 16 that in addition to closures on Sunday, the city of Los Angeles closed all of its 73 libraries on Mondays beginning July 19 (see http://bit.ly/9WatlT).

The article continues: “The cuts are radical and unlike anything seen in a big U.S. city in this recession. Los Angeles now joins the dying city of Detroit as the only significant U.S. municipality to close down its entire library system twice weekly — a choice Detroit leaders made during the early-1980s recession, and from which its cultural core seems never to have recovered.”

L.A. Weekly interviewed officials from other major cities about the topic and found some “consider (libraries) to be a cultural jewel.”

Indianapolis–Marion County Public Library CEO Laura Bramble said her city’s political leaders made certain all of its libraries remain open daily despite the deep fiscal crunch.

Is the path already carved out with the county of Los Angeles? If the county is taking its lead from the example set by the city of Los Angeles, cuts to hours and services in our local branches would seem inevitable.

If the county funding will not be there and is not deemed a priority, then I support the city of Santa Clarita’s approach to steward the local library facilities.

The city has exhibited some other proactive measures that continue to benefit our valley. It was awarded the Enterprise Zone in 2007 for 15 years, establishing a process and accessibility to tax savings and other business-friendly incentives ahead of the current financial crisis (see www.scenterprisezone.com). 

The city partners with educational and business resources to establish and maintain positive private-public partnerships to enhance and improve the city and the entire Santa Clarita Valley.  Job-seekers and companies can take advantage of WorkSource’s free support for finding jobs (see www.scworksource.com).

The city streamlined the permitting process at City Hall, leveraging online access to forms, submissions and tracking. 
Other programs such as Teen Support, the Skate Park, the Arts Commission and other integrated offerings continuously improve the city we live in, bringing service and products to its residents in a timely manner.

So the new approach to the libraries is not out of character or scope for the city’s skill set. It is not beyond its capabilities to partner, streamline, gather input and continuously improve.

Will the transition be perfect? No. Will the libraries be run differently? Maybe. Should we give local leadership the opportunity to sustain and even improve our library system? Yes.

Should we be proactive rather than reactive, and respond to potential library closures rather than wait for the county’s money to run out? Definitely.

Leah Pollack is an Operations Project Consultant and a resident of Valencia since 1999. Pollack is also the Marketing Specialist for the HomeTeamForSCV.com with Triple D Realty in the Santa Clarita Valley. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Fridays and rotates among local Republicans.

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