As an As-Needed Librarian in Public Services and Youth Services for over 20 years at SMPL, now on unpaid leave, I read with deep sadness and a heavy heart my LOL colleagues’ heartfelt messages to the City. These dedicated and talented professionals, some of the finest people I have ever known and worked with, deserved better. The City’s sudden and drastic cuts to the Library staff and budget, due not only to COVID-19 but to ongoing financial mismanagement, were stunning and have resulted in a tremendous loss to the City and its residents. The Library was not only home to staff but to countless Santa Monica families, as well.

Furthermore, the decimation of Youth Services is particularly shocking and short-sighted. Besides promoting literacy and the pleasures of reading, research and experience both have shown that a healthy democracy needs literate adults who can evaluate and understand history and current information. Children who come to the library become educated, adult library patrons. This is our future.

To my knowledge, no other library system in Los Angeles, albeit facing serious budget cuts, has suffered comparable cuts to library staff. I believe with a more conscious awareness of community well-being and with some creativity and compromise, our jobs and services could have been preserved. The remaining SMPL library staff faces a daunting task – continue to offer programs and learning opportunities, maintain subject collections, provide outreach, answer individual queries, sort and shelve books, and the list goes on – with half the staff necessary to do the job. With the present cuts to staff, it is doubtful that many of these services can be maintained.

The buildings are there, but where is the Library?

Virginia Kovner