Neighbors from the Hill were at the library Saturday afternoon learning how to become active citizens by using SeeClickFix. Now, thanks to a city budget crisis, they have a concern they can post on that website: The fact that they can no longer gather at the library on weekends.
It was a typical Saturday at the Wilson branch on Daggett Street. And it wasn’t typical, but rather the last day of its kind for the foreseeable future.
As usual, kids and adults alike passed in and out of the library all day, borrowing books, gathering for community events.
Volunteers were helping people fill out their income tax returns so they can qualify for rebates. Separately, Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team chair Doug Hausladen and Connecticut Data Haven’s Mark Abraham set up shop in the community room to help people learn how to use SeeClickFix and other tools for improving the neighborhood. A teacher, Madeleine Janover, brought her Common Ground High School environmental justice class to take part. Neighborhood activist Helen Martin-Dawson (pictured) took part too. She’s used to coming to events at the library.
“It’s the only free public space in the neighborhood,” she said.
In an area that over the decades has been pretty much denuded of clubs and free community spaces, the library’s community room remains just about the only location available for such gatherings.
That’s changing now. To close a $5.5 million gap in the remaining fiscal year’s budget, the city will no longer keep neighborhood branches open on weekends. Saturday was the last day.
The city laid off 82 workers to help close this year’s gap. That included eliminating 12 library positions citywide. That’s why branches are closing on the weekends. More layoffs loom next fiscal year.
Systemwide the layoffs mean the total number of hours that the main library branch opens will be reduced from 185 hours per month to 148. The branches are taking the brunt of the reductions, with monthly hours reduced from 136 to 96. The downtown main branch will remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
With the elimination of three part-time librarians, eight library aides and one student intern, each of the branches will be open three days a week, including one with evening hours.
Martin-Dawson and Alderwoman Dolores Colon expressed the hope at Saturday’s event in the Hill that people will take what they learned to bring pressure on city officials.
“We need to focus on how we can get them not to cut,” Martin said.
Groups from the Alliance Theater Company to Yalies helping to bring a green market to the Hill to those organizing rallies against alleged police brutality historically have used the community room to assemble, often on Saturdays. One of the area cooperatives, Liberty Square Homes, on whose board Helen Martin-Dawson sits, holds its annual meeting and its monthly meeting every third Saturday at the library.
A security guard who sat at the door estimated that between 300 to 400 people have used the Wilson branch on any given Saturday.
Again, no longer.
“Now we need to figure out where to meet.” Martin-Dawson said. She said Clemente school closes on Saturdays, and the two nearby police substations are too small and not the right kind of setting.
Volunteers in Tax Preparation Assistance or VITA has also for a number of years provided free tax preparation on Saturday. One of its members Dan Hennig (pictured with volunteer Sue Finn) said that at the Wilson Branch they do some 70 returns each tax season. Due to the slashing of Saturday hours, they plan to switch to providing the service on Tuesday nights.
When library assistant Joyce Files told a regular Saturday library user and her two kids that the Wilson branch in the Hill will be closed Saturdays for the foreseeable future, Jeannette Morales responded succinctly, “That sucks.”
Morales, who lives on Daggett Street across from the Wilson branch in the Hill, said her daughter Haylee is a devoted and regular library user.
She said her family takes out about ten to 15 books at a time. That includes many from the series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a favorite of Haylee, a Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy fourth grader. The list also includes the Scooby Doo series, the current favorite of Morales’s younger child David (pictured), although he is expanding from canines into fish books, added his mom.
Morales herself was returning and re-borrowing City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and Trickster’s Girl by Hilari Bell.
Why can’t Haylee use the Clemente library? The school is closed on weekends, mom said, and it doesn’t have the books her daughter wants.
Morales uses the branch for more than books. She said Haylee uses the computers and works with the library staff on homework and school projects. Haylee also recently helped set up a green bin at the branch for environmentally wise disposal of papers.
City Librarian Christopher Korenowsky said in a release about the reduced hours, “I am disheartened beyond belief that the state of the city budget can no longer sustain the current structure of public library services.”
He added that he looks forward to brighter days.
In addition to reduced hours, the NHFPL is terminating interlibrary loan service from other libraries, although the usual transfer of books branch to branch will continue throughout the system.
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posted by: robn on February 28, 2011 8:32am
Why not cut a weekday and leave Saturday since its so popular?
posted by: Cedarhillresident on February 28, 2011 9:06am
Sad reality of the economy :( Understanding that every cut that is happening, there is a group that does not want it to. Cuts have to happen. The question at this point in the game is not, how do we stop this cut from happening. It is what else can be cut instead of this. Something has to be cut.
When we start getting the list of all the cuts there are going to be RESIDENTS across the city that want there cut not to happen…look at East Rock their fire engine is being sold. They do not want that to happen. And more are coming. Previous years the mayor just raised taxes. That is not an option at this time. Some seeing a 75% increase in taxes over the past few years you can not get anymore out of them. People do not have the money with all the state increases coming to the working stiff. He did layoffs. Who else do you suggest lose their job to save this?
We are in a lose lose time in our city. The budget should be coming out within two weeks. It will be a frightful one. We need to count our blessings that more was not cut.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 28, 2011 9:46am
This is what will keep happinng until the masses get off there AsXXXX.
posted by: ignoranceisbliss on February 28, 2011 10:09am
Legislators like Dolores Colon are quick to let us know what they are against-cutting spending for their constituents - but never tell us what they support to pay for it. Interesting to note that Ms. Colon sponsored the recent resolution to kill the creation of the storm water authority which would bring $2.5 million into the City from non-profits like Yale New Haven Hospital and commercial businesses like Ikea with large parking lots. So Ms. Colon what are you for? And don’t tell me you are for cutting wasteful spending without naming specific cuts because I will tell you some people consider branch libraries wasteful in times of economic stress.
posted by: Eva Geertz on February 28, 2011 10:22am
Wait a minute. No more ILL? Are you serious? This is huge. And not in a good way, if it’s true.
My understanding is they are buying a brand new one in Westville, and not laying off any staff at all: so we’ll still have the same level of staff, and actually incur greater costs then if we just maintained status quo?
I understand that the ALS units can raise money, but I’m doubly confused knowing that the firefighters in East Rock pushed for ALS to be added in 2001 and the Mayor turned them down.
We spent 9 years not fully utilizing our fire department, while they made smart suggestions, and now we’re cutting our response time to fires to maintain the same level of spending? (Actually, an overall increase in spending, because we need to buy at least 3 new vehicles??)
I just don’t see the logic in this. It is similar to the mayor laying off 17 brand new cops that cost us almost 1 million to train, knowing that he’ll have massive retirement numbers in the next two years, and need to train up another 50 or so units.
Again, long term increase in cost, with almost no short-term benefit?
These are not the type of cuts or the proactive, responsible, smart investments in our community that many of us want to see.
I am deeply disappointed with what appears to be the Mayor showing off his muscles.
posted by: Noteworthy on February 28, 2011 10:26am
The question is whether this library should ever have been built? It was just opened/re-opened in the last couple of years.
It seems New Haven builds things and only after it is open and running, do they remember it costs something to turn the lights on and pay people. Look at the city’s new schools and the effort underway now to frantically break ground on a new engineering magnant school not in New Haven - in West Haven! The schools aren’t filled and if the BOE and mayor was honest, at least a couple of schools should be closed.
posted by: lance on February 28, 2011 10:29am
Well here’s the thing… New Haven has too many people that take WAY more in entitlements than they pay in taxes. Something has to give.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 28, 2011 10:32am
Hey Allan, when you write about hours getting cut from 185 hours to 148, or from 136 hours to 96,—are you talking about employee hours per week, open hours per week, or open hours per month?
Sorry, follow-up already: I understand if they need to make cuts, or if they can show that they are giving East Rock an objectively better system without increasing spending.
However, to see them increasing spending while cutting services, is very frustrating.
I may be incorrect in my assessment, but our neighborhood did invite the city to present their case and they have declined, saying they are not yet ready.
This leaves me confused: they are ready to tell the press they are cutting our services, but not ready to show us why and how?
It just worries me and makes me think that the plan is ill-conceived. It also frustrates me that the City doesn’t seem to regard us as partners and is planning to merely “inform us”, instead of communicate with us from the get-go.
We need proactive city government that reaches out to the most concerned citizens. Government that responds to concerns and acknowledges constituents.
Did you know that New Haven has an AWFUL rating for government involvement with SeeClickFix, but the best Citizen rating? We are 1st for citizens, I think around 50th for cities.
That simply isn’t right, and tells me that we have things extremely backwards.
posted by: infos11 on February 28, 2011 10:40am
Agree with Robn’s suggestion. When the public library I worked in for many years in another state faced deep budget cuts in the 90s, we decided to close on Fridays (our day of lowest use) in order to stay open Saturdays, when so many more people could and did come to the library. The staff agreed (we were AFSCME)and worked it out.
posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on February 28, 2011 10:43am
Dolores Colon also signed onto the letter opposing monetization of parking meters. How does she propose we pay for our branch libraries? What should be cut instead? Or will she propose a tax increase? I personally think library services are important, and I like the stormwater authority as a way to help assure that further cuts to services like libraries and parks and police will be lessened. What do you propose Alderwoman Colon?
posted by: Cedarhillresident on February 28, 2011 10:49am
david I used that as an loose example of a cut (because we have yet to have been presented with the whole plan to make any real judgments).
We have a week and a half before we know what changes are happening. I am stand offish on all of it right now with out seeing the big picture.
But the one basic fact is the fix for all of this in the past was raise taxes. That is not an option like years past. But maybe Robn has a valid suggestion. why not open it when it is most used. And cut a different day.
Taxpayer: Monetization was an awful concept, of selling off revenue producing city assets for a short-term loan, reducing our long term flexibility and potentially costing us millions more in the long run.
That type of off the balance sheet financial dealing is what Greece and Chicago dabbled in shortly before imploding. A terrible idea.
posted by: Allan Appel on February 28, 2011 10:54am
Good question, A. Scooper. By my calculations the numbers refer to hours open per week. in the case of the branches, for example, each of the four branches is reduced to three days a week with eight hours per day (that includes one evening and no Saturdays) or three times eight, for a total of 24 hours per branch. times four branches is a total of 96 branch hours per week. Whew!
posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on February 28, 2011 11:25am
I’m not a major fan of monetization either. I much prefer the permanent revenue stream created by the Stormwater Authority. The point I was making wasn’t so much in favor of monetization, but that the Board of Aldermen can’t reject every revenue option and then cry foul when services are cut.
posted by: Cedarhillresident on February 28, 2011 11:30am
??? ignoranceisbliss and New Haven Taxpayer Are you kidding me????? You try to make the storm water authority sound like it will bring in extra money??? Which it would not. It will be an added expense to the residents in a time that we are cutting jobs and things like this. A group of people trying to create a whole new department for an issue that our taxes ALREADY pay for.
And did you just say added revenue??? EXPLAIN THAT ONE?? It will only go to your storm water authority it is NOT EXTRA MONEY. It PAYS FOR YOUR SPECIAL INTEREST!
IN NO WAY WILL THE STORM WATER AUTHORITY save the tax payer money, it will be changing them 2 times for the same service….nor DOES IT EFFECT THIS ISSUE with the library…lets not misrepresent.
David more or less summed the parking up right….. As far as the parking meters… hmmmmm really. 5 mill a year for 5 years…..and what do we lose if we do that????? How many millions do we lose over the 25 year contract ???? and loop holes that Chicago saw?? The parking thing is someone selling us out. A quick fix that will hurt us in the years to come.
CHR: I wasn’t trying to criticize your statement, either, just trying to get some community response to the fire station issue and see where others stood! I am feeling very stand-offish myself until the City can present a unified package and a comprehensive vision.
I am just tired of these piecemeal steps which rarely seem to make a real dent in costs, which are pushed on the community, and never discussed beforehand.
posted by: davec on February 28, 2011 11:41am
Were heading back in time. Check out the history of the Institute Library on Chapel Street in the 9th Square. This library was an early example of a private library founded to help young men (sadly, just young men at that time) better themselves. The Institute Library was founded before the advent of public libraries, I believe.
Privatized nation…get your war on.
posted by: new haven taxpayer on February 28, 2011 11:49am
The Stormwater Authority WOULD bring in new revenue because fees would be collected from non-profits like Yale and the hospitals who don’t already pay. Homeowners wouldn’t be taxed twice because the stormwater costs would be taken out of the general fund budget. I’ve been told also there will be NO NEW OFFICE OR PEOPLE. It’s just a new way to pay for stormwater management. I like it because it means non-profits and major corporations like Walmart will finally start paying their share.
posted by: Cedarhillresident on February 28, 2011 11:52am
:) I knew that david :) I think we are all gearing up for a tough year for all :(
Perhaps not totally relevant, but DaveC reminds me that I just joined the Institute Library—as he says, originally founded by working class people in a country bereft of libraries. The only libraries were exclusive academic or wealthy ones.
For a very small fee, residents could sit and enjoy books and spirited literary and civic discussions.
The library has a new Executive Director who is a real firebrand: 25$ gets you a year membership, and goes to supporting the educational programs he is re-introducing.
A real New Haven treasure—check it out. Also open on weekends!
posted by: Eva Geertz on February 28, 2011 11:59am
Davec, you are on the ball.
posted by: Cedarhillresident on February 28, 2011 12:14pm
new haven taxpayer SO you are saying the the money collected from yale and non profits does not go to the sole use of the Storm Water Authority??? because that is the only way it is extra revenue.
And Please Please tell me WHO told you that the “stormwater costs would be taken out of the general fund budget” Because that is not true.
posted by: Darnell on February 28, 2011 1:23pm
Why don’t you stormwater folks cut out the spin? With the proposal by the city, the stormwater authority would only bring in $600,000 in new income, which is by the way the amount they spent already this year on lawyers and consultants.
What should suggest is that we cut the $350,000 from Tweed. The airport had 35926 enplanements last year, if they charge $10 per, they would have the subsidy covered.
posted by: Darnell on February 28, 2011 1:33pm
New Haven Taxpayer:
I have an equation for you.
FY10-11 Property Taxes on Home Approx $4600 (not including cars)
Total for homeowner $4600
FY11-12 Property Taxes on Home Approx $4600 (if the mayor keeps his no tax increase pledge) + Stormwater authority $50 fee (tax)
Total for homeowner $4650
Can someone please explain for me how going from $4600 to $4650 is a SAVINGS?
posted by: Curmudgeonly Nutmeger on February 28, 2011 10:22pm
You are 100% correct. The proposed stormwater charge is an increase in what citizens pay to own a house in NH. No doubt about it. If it makes non-profits and other busineess pay more then it must be good. It means we home owning citizens get screwed for $50 more a year, but that’s better than a tax increase of $100 because the fat cats aren’t paying. If the stormwater thing didn’t happen how much more would we be screwed. Every year there’s an election Johnny Boy keeps taxes flat. Next year he puts them up 10% or 12% like we don’t notice. Never mind 2011-12, where will we be in 2012-13. Take the stormwater deal, just reduce property taxes $50 and we’ll all be square this year. If Johnny Boy puts up the stormwater tax to $500 in 2012-13, just make him cut property tax by $500.