Hundreds Pack the Annapolis Library to Oppose Cuts
At a town hall meeting, Library Administrator Hampton "Skip" Auld, encouraged residents to contact their local leaders to speak out against the proposed cuts.
While swarms of people wore festive green and flooded the bars downtown on the night of St. Patrick’s Day, orange was the color of choice for many people inside the Annapolis Area Library on West Street.
Orange buttons, which read simply "I love my library," were worn by many in the crowd of around 300 people who filled the central area of the library to show their support. Anne Arundel County Councilman Chris Trumbauer (D-6th District) of Annapolis was also in attendance wearing an orange button.
As the second in a series of three town hall meetings hosted by Library Administrator Hampton "Skip" Auld, the meeting attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Auld encouraged residents to speak out against cuts in library services proposed by County Executive John Leopold.
The proposed FY2012 budget for the county calls for a 10 percent reduction in the library system’s budget.
“In a way, we have become a victim of our own success,” said Joan Beck, president of the board of trustees for the library, as she introduced Auld to the crowd.
Beck explained that libraries have become so much a part of people’s everyday lives that most can't imagine life without them.
“I’m what you call a 'power user' of the library and so is everybody in my family,” said meeting attendee Jerri Kamicker, who lives in St. Maragaret’s.
Kamicker continued to say that while Anne Arundel County has a big disparity in income and class, the library is one place where you can see a true variety of people in the county, where you can walk in and find both a homeless person and someone living in a big house on the Severn River.
“That’s what a community is and that’s what the library does for us,” she said.
As Auld spoke to the people in attendance, he pleaded with them to contact their local legislators to voice their concerns about the library cuts. Auld said in the last three years, the county library system’s budget has been cut by more than 17 percent.
As a result of these recent cuts, Auld said the system’s book budget has been reduced by 33 percent, there are longer waiting lists for popular books, and the system has been forced to implement a series of furlough days.
He explained that an additional 10 percent cut in the budget would force many of the libraries to reduce their hours and would also result in the permanent elimination of up to 18 positions.
"We feel that the cuts that the library system has taken have been disproportionate and that there are cuts that can be taken in other parts of the county budget," Auld said.
Auld also showed a graph demonstrating that the materials budget (for books, movies, etc.) is at the same level it was in 1999.
"If you look back at 1999 and you look at 2011, we're back where we were in 1999. And there's that old saying, 'You wanna party like it's 1999.' We don't," Auld said.
Auld's presentation outlined that any cut more than 4 percent would result in:
- No Sunday service at all libraries except the Maryland City location
- On Thursdays, all libraries would close at 6 p.m.
- All of the community branches would be closed on Fridays
After his presentation, many residents spoke out with great passion in support of the library and its services. Others offered suggestions for ways to make up for the cuts, like holding annual book sales, encouraging donations and charging fees to all groups (not just for-profit businesses) for use of the meeting rooms.
One woman even suggested the library start charging 10 cents per book—an idea that many opposed.
Despite their ideas for how to fix the problem, the residents all seemed to have one thing in common–a love for the library.
Annapolis resident Margaret Abel attended the meeting with her parents, who are about 80 years old.
“I use the library. I’ve been using it since I was a child,” she said.
The third and final town hall meeting to discuss library cuts is scheduled for March 24 at the North County Area Library in Glen Burnie.