It cannot have been easy to create a way to keep the branch libraries open, and the option presented to aldermen on Feb. 1 was, to use one alderman’s term, “untenable,” because it cannibalized the Main Library to save the branches. Also unworkable for Council members was the insistence by some branch library supporters that an independent taxing district for library services be created, rather a more limited special service area.
While we understand that the “close the Main Library on Fridays” option was in fact no option, Council has left the window of opportunity open just a crack by promising to keep the North Branch space vacant for a year and not making a decision on the South Branch lease. We hope that the Library Board, which has created its own task force on branch libraries, as well as the ad-hoc group branchlove.com, will continue their quest to expand library services throughout the community, including establishing a west-side facility in some form.
This is indeed a winter of discontent, unease and worry. The City’s final budget, whatever form it ultimately takes, will entail certain sacrifices – pared-down services, higher fees, longer lines.
We cannot imagine the pain that this budget process has caused – to those whose jobs are being cut as well as to those who must not only make those decisions but inform people they must seek employment elsewhere. We applaud the Council members and City staff for their hard work and encourage them to keep looking for the cost savings that impact the community as minimally as possible. If there is any cold comfort, it might be that the budget process is egalitarian – everyone is hurt, everyone is concerned. Our response, after the final budget has been approved, must be to volunteer to help the City wherever and however we can, to try to ensure that we do not have to go through as painful a process again and to work toward making deferred projects become reality.