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In Long Beach, books and budgets

August 16, 2008

Re "Library closure idea prompts outcry," Aug. 12

While I appreciated the opportunity to express my views on the proposed closing of Long Beach's downtown library, I'm afraid the main points of my interview were lost in the editing process. My comments were meant to be supportive, not divisive.

Like all cities across California, Long Beach must make difficult financial decisions. Mayor Bob Foster and I have always seen public libraries as keys to the civic foundation. When the city manager approached me with the idea of closing the downtown library, my first reaction was to do whatever I could to keep library services in downtown Long Beach.

City officials share my passion for making library services available to as many Long Beach residents as possible. Foster and his wife, Nancy, have been constant supporters of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, serving in leadership positions on capital campaigns helping to raise millions of dollars and pledging tens of thousands of their personal funds. The Mark Twain Library, Long Beach's newest branch, was created with the help of the Fosters.

I join Foster, City Manager Patrick West and my council colleagues in taking a calm and calculated assessment of the downtown library's current situation. I will always fight for equitable delivery of services to all of our citizens. In this case, we must first gather some cold, hard facts. My passions remain unquestioned, and my investigation will be intense. Let us invite input from affected stakeholders and start a productive dialogue that is realistic and inclusive.

Bonnie Lowenthal

Council Member

District One

Long Beach

I do not agree with Foster that modern libraries should be smaller because of the Internet. My students at Long Beach Community College depend on the main library in Long Beach for their research assignments and essays. Professional journals and most books are not available online. For serious research projects, students need large, updated and well-stocked libraries.

When I entered our main library last week, there was no sign of decay, no homeless congregation. There were children and parents and older students. They were devouring books.

Citing decay and the need for building repairs seems arbitrary -- unless the mayor and city manager have other plans for the library property.

There are 460,00 visitors to this library annually, and 90% of the children who live in the library's service area have no transportation to other libraries. The library offers bilingual homework assistance in math, science, technology and language arts. Thousands of children attend story time, early literacy and school readiness programs. Seniors enjoy services such as access to large-print books and books on tape.

I hope the mayor and city manager will rethink this budget cut. The main library is good for this city. It is what the people want.

Wendy Greenstein

Long Beach

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