Mayor Todd Gloria said Thursday that he will attempt to maintain library hours – a reversal from his original proposed budget which cut services to five days a week.
His comments came following a hearing on the library budget by the San Diego City Council’s Budget Review Committee.
“I am committed to working with the library director, Department of Finance and the City Council to offer a proposal in the May Revise to restore library hours,” Gloria said.
He added that it is his “intent to get back to a seven-day-a-week schedule across our library system over the next year.” The city continues to work through the details, he said but promised more information to be released later this month.
Gloria proposed a $4.6 billion budget in April, factoring in more than $300 million in one-time federal relief the city is receiving as part of the federal American Rescue Plan.
San Diego was facing an expected budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year of $124 million –more than the entire Parks and Recreation Department’s budget – before President Joe Biden signed the relief bill.
However, even with these funds, Gloria proposed reducing the city’s library hours to Tuesday through Saturday, a savings of $6.9 million, his staff estimated.
The San Diego Public Library has 36 locations and more than 5 million items in its collection.
Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed reduction in library hours, expressed her desire to maintain service levels throughout the city, particularly in underserved communities like those in her district.
“Our libraries are one of the only places that many residents and students in District 8 are able to access the Internet and have a safe place to study,” Moreno said. “The digital divide exists in my district and replacing hours the library is open with digital services is unacceptable.”
Gloria’s proposed budget also includes an organizational restructuring, including replacing hourly positions with benefitted, salaried positions. This, according to a staff report, will fill numerous vacancies and help stop staff departures. The library has a 25% attrition rate, the report said.
Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation, noted the tenor of the budget hearing in which he detected strong encouragement for “the restoration of proposed cuts to the library’s budget.”
“It was clear that the long overdue investments in materials, e-resources and programming were recognized as necessary additions to the library’s ability to effectively serve the community,” he said.
He added though that the City Council should “recognize the department’s need to organize staffing in a manner that effectively and sustainably supports the ability to reopen and deliver these core, essential services for years to come.”
The city budget proposal recommends spending levels for operations and capital projects for Fiscal Year 2022, from July 1 through June 30, 2022.
The final budget will be adopted in June following several weeks of review by the public and the City Council.