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For Immediate Release

Monday, April 12, 2010

Focus on Priorities: Libraries and Library Workers Are Vital to Our Communities

Washington, DC — 

Gerald W. McEntee, president of the 1.6 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME), today attacked reckless cuts to libraries and the workers who make libraries happen.

 “At a time when we should be putting people back to work, short-sighted lawmakers are taking away the very tools that will restore the health of our economy,” says AFSCME President McEntee. “The books and Internet resources found there provide a foundation to build a better future for millions. Our library workers are indispensable.”

Library workers are important public servants who provide opportunity and education to our communities during these challenging times.  Libraries are playing a vital role in the nation’s economic recovery and usage is soaring.  The 2010 celebration of National Library Workers Day, on April 13, provides an opportunity to examine our communities’ priorities and values.

Unfortunately, when so many are relying on libraries, local officials are slashing hours, laying off staff, and even closing their doors to balance budgets.  In 2009 more than half the nation’s libraries reported funding cuts, 15 percent reported cuts to their hours of operation and 13 states reported library closures.  This trend continues this year:

  • The New York Public Library system cut hours for city libraries and slashed services at two-thirds of its branches.
  • The Rockford (Ill.) Public Library lost more than 20 percent of staff and operating hours were cut from 312 to 225 hours per week.
  • The San Jose (Calif.) Public Library may have layoffs of up to 110 library workers and branches may only be open three days a week.
  • The Seattle (Wash.) Public Library significantly cut hours and libraries will be closed for a week.
  • The Houston (Texas) Public Library system will reduce its hours by 28 percent — closing most of its 42 branches on Saturdays — and cut spending on library materials.
     

AFSCME, which represents more than 25,000 library workers nationwide, is the nation’s largest union representing librarians, library technicians and other library workers.  AFSCME is working to save critical public services, and is fighting to keep libraries open and their resources available to all.  On National Library Workers Day, and every day, AFSCME salutes the contributions of everyone who works to make library services possible.