Need your help fight cuts in library hours – here’s how – act by April 15!

Greetings to all El Cerrito Library Supporters:

As a valuable and concerned member of our library community, you signed up, either on this El Cerrito Library Foundation website or at an ECLF booth at a City activity, to receive notification whenever the El Cerrito City Council is scheduled to consider any actions affecting our library. A strong threat to our current 50 hours, seven days per week library operation merits our attention. 

Whether or not you were able to watch the April 7 city council meeting (viewable on the city’s website), the most important item discussed was addressing the fiscal problems of the city as acerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.  The council is looking to cut 5-10% of the budget generally in order to provide both a regular and an emergency reserve (and which was one of the issues that was raised in the recent audit report).  

At that April 7 council meeting, Karen Pinkos, the City Manager, acknowledged that she was going to be recommending that among the things to be cut is the $129,000 that extended the library operating hours from the county provided 35 hours (and 5 days) a week to the current 50 hours (and seven days) a week. She will be reporting back to the next council meeting on April 21 and is almost certainly going to be recommending a complete cutting of the hours because, as she stated, the alternative will be furloughing city staff.  

Now is the time for everyone to tell the city council members of your support for the current 50 hours, seven days per week library hours.  We want to be sure all council members get emails from a large number of people by April 16.  Please, all of you reading this notice, send your emails of support to each council member, the City Manager, and the Assistant City Manager as follows:  Mayor Greg Lyman – glyman@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Fadelli – pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; Council Member Janet Abelson – jabelson@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; Council Member Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto – rpardueokimoto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; Council Member Gabriel Quinto – gquinto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; City Manager Karen Pinkos – kpinkos@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us; Alexandra Orologas, Assistant City Manager – AOrologas@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us.  (Please BCC your email to Al Miller, amil@sonic.net.)

And contact 3-5 of your friends who live in El Cerrito to ask them to also write emails to the above council members in support of the current library hours. Included below are a few sample statements you can use to adapt in your emails:

The most important services provided by our city come from our first responders — the police and fire department.  That’s why we support that no budget cut will adversely affect the level of services provided by them. But this need does not mean we must eliminate city-funded library hours.  There are many other items which can be reduced. Yes, those items will be missed by our residents. But with the exception of our first responders, the library serves the needs of so many El Cerritans and is valued by its community. Public comments at city council meetings over the past several months have shown that El Cerritans with widely varying views about the origin and the solutions to our city’s financial problems all share a desire to continue to fund library hours.

1.  The city-funded hours were passed by the council following the defeat of the library bonds in 2016.  One of the issues in that election was that the library was only open part-time.  The council, when they passed the city-funded issues indicated there were making a commitment to us, the electorate, that a desperately needed new library would be available to El Cerritans on a more full-time basis. To break that commitment at this time will damage the credibility of the council whenever an effort to fund a new library will be on the ballot. In addition, in 2018 the city said that Measure V money would be used to support fire, police and library hours. El Cerrito voted for Measure V and expects to see that promise kept.

2.  The city funded library hours produced an increase in computer logins by over 50% while the logins in the rest of the county library branches were flat. These numbers show just how much access to the internet and computers are needed in our area.  The hours help bridge the digital divide. To cut the hours now would significantly disadvantage the neediest among us, in essence balancing our budget on the backs of our poorest.

3.  The city council has sought a 5-10% budget reduction citywide. The elimination of the city-funded library hours represents a 100% reduction.  A ten percent reduction would reduce hours by 1.5 per week.

4.  The elimination of the city funded library hours might, at best, result in the savings of 1-2 jobs at the city level while causing a similar loss in jobs at the county level.  Both city and county employees serve our residents and the loss of jobs at either level affect us.

5.  Libraries serve as a refuge from the chaos of homelessness for those experiencing homelessness.  Every hour that the library is closed is an hour where that refuge is denied to the most needy among us.

6.  Our library is a valuable cultural, economic, educational, artistic, and community resource.  It is an asset of incalculable value to our community and is one of our busiest and more beloved institutions. But it is only available when open.  

7.  The library is a good community investment.  Studies cited on the website of the California State Librarian indicate that every dollar invested in libraries returns two to ten dollars to the community.

8.  The city-funded hours for the library have results in greater value of the library for all of us — 48,000 additional patron visits year-to-year, 50% increase in library programs, 9,000 additional attendees at library programs (an increase of over 120%), increased funding to the library from the Friends of the El Cerrito Library of $6,800 (170%), and increased donations to the Permanent Endowment Fund of the El Cerrito Library Foundation of nearly $25,000.  

The meeting packet for council members to review for their April 21 meeting will be sent to them by the City Clerk on Thursday, April 16. To be sure your comments are included, please send them before 4:00 pm on Wednesday April 15.

Thank you for your help in our fight for our current library hours.

And, thanks to our City of El Cerrito Designated Library Commissioner, Michael Fisher, for his leadership in developing this request.

Al Miller
President, El Cerrito Library Foundation

City Council 2/18 to discuss budget cutbacks – show your support for the library!

Library users and Supporters:

Most of you may be aware that the City of El Cerrito is going through an “everything is on the table” budget review process. One of the things “on the table” is something near and dear to all of us – The extended hours, seven days per week operation of the El Cerrito Library. 

If having seven day per week access to our library, and the resulting increased number of programs, is important to you, please come to the Tuesday, February 18 El Cerrito City Council meeting and tell the Council why.

The February 18 Council meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at the El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530, beginning at 7:00 pm. At this meeting the City staff will present the mid-year budget adjustments for City Council approval as well as the completed Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

To speak during the agenda item 7.B. FY 2019-20 Mid-Year Budget Update, please come early enough to fill out a speakers card available in the council.

FYI: In the upcoming council Agenda Item 7.C. Discussion of City Events the City Council will also discuss possible city event cancellation including the City of El Cerrito & worldOne 4th of July Festival.

Please come to this meeting and “speak your piece” to let your opinion count.

On Jan 21st, the City Manager provided a budget update to the City Council and outlined some upcoming opportunities for our community to participate in shaping the future of our City.

The City staff is expected to work on updating the City website to include our budget presentations, information from the Town Hall meeting for those that can’t be in attendance, as well as City Council presentations. Please keep checking the page el-cerrito.org/AnnualBudgetProcess for updated information.

Thank you.
Al Miller, President, El Cerrito Library Foundation