Louisville Metro government has nearly reached its goal of “providing a full-service library within five miles of 90 percent of Louisville residents,” but a labor union says the city’s proposed budget would hurt people of color by shifting money away from the Main Library.
The Library Master Plan calls for the construction of a $17.8 million building in the Lyndon neighborhood using grants, budget appropriations and city spending. But the budget would gut the Main Library’s budget, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees said, moving 20 staff positions and shutting down services.
Louisville Free Public Library Director Jim Blanton was unavailable for comment at the time of this article.
AFSCME 3425 spokesman Cole Sites said the move is part a systematic effort by Mayor Greg Fischer’s office to slash the library’s employment.
“I honestly feel like we are all being taken advantage of. That we’re very compassionate and caring about our jobs, that we can be used as pawns and manipulated whenever it’s convenient to the mayor’s projects,” Sites said. “I guess the mayor just sees our budget as an unnecessary expense that he can cut at any whim.”
Mayor Fischer’s office says otherwise.
“The library is not losing any positions, and is not reducing hours of service,” Fischer’s spokeswoman, Jean Porter said. “It is really important to note that even as we begin consolidating traditional public services onto one floor at the Main Library and redeploy 20 positions to other library locations, the Main Library will still have the largest square footage available for public use of any of our regional libraries.”
The mayor’s proposed budget would increase the Louisville Free Public Library’s general fund appropriation by about five percent while cutting $341,000 from the Main Branch Information Services’ budget. It also suggests spending $350,000 on redesigning the library’s first floor and second floor, transforming the latter into a “community support and arts space.”
In an email sent by Blanton to library employees in April, he outlined the resources that would be reallocated away from the Main Branch:
“Part of the savings we’ve identified will come from eliminating the budget for VISTA workers and closing on Christmas Eve. To fulfill the remaining cost savings required of us, we’re going to take the opportunity to redesign the Main Library and align it to function and look more like the other three regional libraries.
“To accomplish this goal, we will consolidate all adult services to the first floor in the North Building. This stage of the plan will take place in the next few months. The realignment will allow us to transfer some Main staff to the Northeast Regional Library and to the newly renovated St. Matthews branch. We are meeting with all Main Staff to explain how this plan will take shape and how it will affect them. There will be transfers required of Union and Non-Union Reference, Adult, Children’s, Pages, and Education Team staff.”
According to an LFPL statement, supplied by Porter, the Adult Bookmobile and telereference services normally offered on the library’s second floor will not be eliminated.