“Ramona did not consider herself to be a pest. People who called her a pest did not understand that a littler person sometimes had to be a little bit noisier and a little bit stubborn in order to be noticed at all.” – Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
Beverly Cleary’s works, like the beloved Ramona series, sparked millions of people’s love for reading. Before finding fame as a best-selling and award-winning children’s author, Ms. Cleary was a librarian. Throughout her life, Ms. Cleary was a vocal advocate and de facto spokesperson for America’s Public Library System. Today, her memory serves as an inspiration for “Save Santa Monica’s Library,” a grassroots coalition of librarians, patrons, parents, children, and members of the Santa Monica community working to save Santa Monica’s Library (it isn’t just a clever name).
The City’s proposed Biennial Fiscal Year 2021-2023 Budget was not up to the task to fully re-open the libraries so we got together and started writing emails and letters. And, on May 26, 2021, at the end of the second Study Session for the proposed budget, Councilmembers Parra, McCowan, and Brock responded to their community and all requested “ways for staff to find a path forward” to expand library services beyond what was in the proposed budget. We hope their distinguished colleagues on the Council will also honor our community’s wishes come June 22nd, when Council approves and adopts the final budget.
Over the next few weeks, SMDP readers will hear stories from the community on what the library means to them. We are not professional advocates. We are Santa Monicans who want a robust library system for our community; we are former librarians who know best what the City has lost; and, we are everyday people who miss our library. We are neighbors, friends, and friendly faces some may remember.
If readers agree, we hope they will tell the City Council to prioritize bringing back library services in the Fiscal Year 2021-2023 Budget to balance out the massive cuts the library suffered last year. Cutting 45% of library staff and closing our beloved library branches might have made sense during lockdown, but it does not make sense today. Santa Monicans should not be left asking, “why is the library still closed” in 2023, as the proposed budget contemplates. We must tell City Council to take the necessary steps to re-fund the Santa Monica Public Library system, re-staff our libraries with librarians, and re-open the closed branches to whatever extent possible in the current budget and the next. And keep doing it until our library system is back to normal.
We ask SMDP readers to join Save Santa Monica’s Library in being a little bit noisier and a little bit stubborn in order to be noticed for the same reasons Ms. Cleary spoke out for libraries: because fighting to save Santa Monica’s Library is worth being a pest for! Share your stories with us and let City Council know what libraries mean to you!