Well this is depressing. From United Press International (via Library Journal) on the budget situation in Detroit vis a vis its libraries:
The city has experienced an million shortfall in revenue. One month after pink-slipping 80 library employees, administrators say they have to cut deeper and have three odious options in mind — shut 18 of 23 branches and lay off 191 of the remaining 333 workers; lose 15 branches and 163 workers; or lose 12 branches and 135 workers…
Of the libraries on the chopping block is the main branch (pictured above), a beautiful Italian Renaissance-style building constructed of Vermont and Italian marble designed by Cass Gilbert and finished in 1921. It’s hard to believe that this classic example of early 20th-century architecture is not worth preserving in its own right, but the fact that it’s also the face of Detroit’s library system demonstrates the severity of the situation.
“We are really running out of options to maintain the viability of the system,” library commissioner Anthony Adams told UPI. “I don’t see too many ways to avoid not doing something draconian. Every day we don’t act is a day we are digging a deeper hole for ourselves.”
As the LJ report notes, Detroit’s libraries are funded largely through property taxes. But with property tax income falling as much as 20 to 30 percent in the next 4 years, the culling of library branches from the system was probably inevitable. And it’s in keeping with an even bigger project of consolidating a city (see this recent story from PBS’ Need To Know) whose population has decreased from a once bustling 2 million to now fewer than 750,000 according to the last census.
Still, many believe that the choices facing Detroit now did not have to be this bad. Todd Kelly, the president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1259, put it bluntly in his criticism of the library board: “Essentially you are killing a library system.”