Phila. Library Branches To Stay Open, But At What Cost?

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Judge Heidi Fox has ruled in favor of library advocates, focusing her entire case on an ordinance from 1988, a section that says any city owned building cannot be abandoned or closed without city council approval. (Nutter had not sought Council’s approval for the library closings, which he ordered as part of the city’s response to the budget crisis.) KYW Newsradio covers the issue in further detail.

Philadelphia Daily News
Photo: Tony Cesa, one of a group of anti-closure protesters, shouts at Mayor Nutter during a news conference. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Philadelphia Daily News Staff photographer)

Although keeping the libraries open is a hard-won accomplishment, the city of Philadelphia, like many other U.S. cities, still has to deal with an extreme budget crisis. In a recent Philadelphia Daily News article entitled, “Libraries to become ‘learning centers’,” it was revealed that Mayor Michael Nutter now plans to transform the 11 library buildings slated to close into “knowledge centers” with outside financial help. The city will lease the buildings to the new operators, which include community groups, foundations, corporations and others that would provide funding and staffing for the facilities, Nutter said.

Librarian Bruce Jensen warns “let’s keep an eye on this, shall we? If the mayor succeeds with his redefinition of what libraries should do and whom they should do it for, and if he saves a lot of money in the process, it’s an idea that just might someday come to a city or county near you.”

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