BY ANI BOYADJIAN
In a little over a week, Los Angeles city residents voting in the March 8 election will hold the fate of the Los Angeles Public Library system in their hands. Members of the Armenian community in Los Angeles will also be going to the polls with their fellow residents to participate in the upcoming election.
Books and reading hold a very special place in Armenian hearts. Most Armenians have extensive home libraries of which they are very proud. Yet they also look to their local library to have the latest books in English as well as their language, as do all Angelenos who frequent any of the 73 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library system.
However, this will not be possible unless we reopen our library doors. It is no news to anyone that libraries all over the country have fallen on hard times. Austerity measures and cuts have reduced staffing and services when job seekers, students, and readers need libraries the most. The Los Angeles Public Library has suffered greatly due to budget cuts in the City. Central Library in downtown Los Angeles has gone from being open seven days a week to shuttering its doors two days, reduced to a five-day a week schedule for the first time in its 132 year history. In fact, it is the only major metropolitan library in the country with a five-day a week schedule. This speaks volumes about what we value as a society. It sends the wrong message to our future readers and thinkers, sending them back into the streets instead of inside our doors after the bells ring at the end of the school day.
Sadly, the public is oftentimes unaware of how much is available—for free—in our libraries. Libraries provide more than a place to read and do research. With a library card—which is free—you can check out the latest DVD (we get them as close to street date as your local Blockbuster).
Musicians can find all the sheet music, scores or orchestrations they desire—all for free. Adults who cannot read can come to the Literacy Center at Central Library and learn how to read—all for free. Teens flock to our branches after school, participating in programs and reading the latest hot titles—all for free. Librarians help job seekers identify sites, provide resume building books and resources, and get them started on their job hunt—all for free. Library customers with Nooks and e-readers can download the latest e-book, e-audiobook, e-video, or e-music to their electronic portable devices—all for free.
Just a few weeks ago, I received a call from a patron who had lost an expensive computer programming book. As a result of a fine, her library card was blocked and she was unable to use our computers and access her e-mail.
Then she told me her story. She was homeless, living out of her car. She once worked for a software company, but got laid off. She lost her apartment, and was unable to find another job. She had checked out a book on UNIX system administration in order to update her skills and become viable in the job market. She used our library computers to look for jobs and access her e-mail.
She had done this all for free.
Then her car got stolen, and with it the UNIX book. She was pleading and desperate “Please don’t shut me out of library services. This is my last chance. This is all I’ve got.”
Her story is potent: What we do on a daily basis matters. For some, the library is their lifeline. It is more than bridging a digital divide: It is leveling the playing field, providing services and resources to those who need them the most.
Measure L would provide much needed funding to support all of these activities and collections, without any new taxes.
Measure L would restore staffing and services, provide more money for all collections in all the formats and languages housed within our massive system and available virtually via www.lapl.org, including Armenian language titles and resources.
Measure L would not only restore six and eventually seven day service for LAPL, but ensure that adequate staffing exists to better serve your needs as a reader and as a taxpayer.
Supporting Measure L would be an affirmation by Los Angeles residents that the Library is vital, deserves funding, and performs an important role in building civil society.
Librarians and readers urge you to go to the polls on March 8 and vote YES on Measure L. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Nothing less than the future of our children and civil society is at stake.
For more information, visit www.yesonmeasurel.com and www.savethelibrary.org
Ani Boyadjian is Manager of Electronic Services for the Los Angeles Public Library system.