San Diego City Council members praised the mayor’s proposed budget for libraries Wednesday, but expressed concerned about a fund for acquisitions being reduced by $500,000.

The same amount was redirected to pay for a pilot program offering after- school tutoring  at 18 branches in areas where students scored poorly on standardized tests.

San Diego Central Library. Photo courtesy of the library.

With the $500,000 reduction, Mayor Kevin Faulconer budget for the fiscal years starting July 1 sets aside $3 million for acquisitions, according to library Director Deborah Barrow. She said the money is used to buy books, magazines, electronic materials and online subscriptions.

Library officials suggested shifting the $500,000 to the tutoring program, while they evaluated emerging technologies, such as the popularity of downloading e-books from library websites. They said they hoped to make their operations more efficient.

“We are changing as a society with all the technology — we’re just moving in that direction,” Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said.

The City Council is scrutinizing Faulconer’s $2.97 budget proposal on a department-by-department basis this week, but no votes are being taken. The mayor will soon present budget revisions based on updated fiscal data and City Council feedback. A vote on a final  spending plan is expected next month.

Faulconer’s plan to expand library hours was well received by council members and public speakers, although some asked for libraries to stay open past 7 p.m. to accommodate community meetings.

Library hours were cut back a few years ago as the city’s finances were struggling with the recession, but they’ve been incrementally restored over the past couple of years.

Faulconer has suggested keeping the Central Library open for 54 hours and branch libraries open for 48 hours — and increase of five and four hours, respectively. Those totals are similar to what the city offered in 2005.

Several branches will also see extended weekend hours.

The total proposed library budget is $45.2 million, a hike of $1.4 million from the current year.

–City News Service

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