CREATED Jun. 19, 2013
Omaha, NE - The city of Omaha faces a multi-million dollar shortfall and multiple city services could be impacted: including cuts to library services or even closing some branches.
Mayor Stothert asked each city department to look for areas to save. With already limited resources the Omaha public library and parents who bring their kids, fear what the possible cuts could mean for libraries across Omaha.
Once a week, for years, Sahra Loya has come to the Florence library, "We've been to the library three days this week already, it's just something we always do as a family," says Loya. While her older two children study, her youngest is just learning how to read. Loya attributes their skills to the Florence branch, "With the boys, they're really rambunctious, but when you read to them, they sit down for a while." Now, Loya is one of thousands who's worried her summer haven will not be around much longer.
To help make up for a citywide budget shortfall, mayor Jean Stothert suggests a 1.6 percent budget reduction for the Omaha public libraries. "What would it take to get 200 thousand dollars in savings out of the libraries budget so one of the ideas," asks OPL executive director, Gary Wasdin. His answer, "you could close a branch."
Wasdin says the reduction really amounts to 600-thousand in cuts over the next two years. He says they could close the Swanson library and reduce library programs. Another option would be to completely close the newly renovated Florence branch. Then close the main Dale W. Clark library downtown and Millard branch one day a week to make those branches open six days a week.
Pete Festersen is against closing the Florence branch, he says the library recently underwent an 800 thousand dollar renovation and now it's on the chopping block. "It's important to expand our hours and have the library available to the community, this is one of the only free events in the whole city," says Festersen.
Festersen fought to keep the Florence branch open in 2009 and he's fighting again. "I'm opposed to it; we don't want our library to close." Festersen's admiration for the North Omaha branch is shared by others in the community.
At a public hearing Wednesday, some attendees wore "save the Florence library" t-shirts and asked about other options to save money. Some ideas tossed around included closing the second busiest library in Omaha, the Dale W. Clark branch. Others discussed the possibility of reducing library hours at every branch but not closing any of the twelve libraries.
Wasdin says the library board will review all the suggestions from the public hearing and submit a revised budget plan to the mayor.