Mayor Bob Foster and The Long Beach City Council recently proposed the closure of the Long Beach Main Library as part of a series of cutbacks designed at lowering the cities 16.5 million dollar shortfall.
The Main Library built in 1977 is the 2nd newest library and is the central hub to the system. Mayor Foster stated in a recent Press Telegram article that while he is an avid supporter of the Library and the system, the Main is in need of repairs with the estimated costs totalling 10 million to repair the roof alone.
The Library is repository for over a million books including several collections of rare books and art and home to a theatre. It has a large media collection consisting of thousands of VHS, DVD, Vinyl and cassette collections of music and movies.
It serves at least five local area schools assisting with literacy programs, art and poetry and a large public computer network that several communities take advantage of.
While I do support Mayor Foster, I voted for him, and as a former long time residence of the 1st district, I support Councilperson Bonnie Lowenthal, in spirit, I now live in the 6th district represented by Dee Andrews, I must say that I am suspicious and a little taken aback. Both the Mayor and Rep Lowenthal failed to even show up as the East Arts Village was being leveled. East Arts Village is a section of downtown which is home to the Acres of Books, Open, Education 2000+ and the Shades of Afrika.
Two four square blocks from Broadway, Long Beach Blvd, Elm Ave, and 3rd street are now the a large demolition site. Jacks Liquor gone, Terry's Cameras gone, Stop Furniture store gone, Assisted living gone, 99 cent store gone, Al's Fingerprinting and Photography moved, Shades of Afrika moved, Jansens stamps gone! The only one still standing is the venerable Acres of Books, a huge bookstore which until recently Long Beach proudly advertised as a historic landmark. When overtures were first entertained to condemn the property with eminent domain and the historical landmark status was invoked, the city conveniently stated that the Historical landmark status was only issued by the city and revoke it. The city has yet to explain how and what standards are they using to decide when in fact the city will recognize a property as historic and when and if that status can be revoked.
In typical Long Beach fashion though Acres will be leveled and long gone and some new property will be built and sold by the time anyone decides maybe this was a bad idea. Let me tell you now Mr. Mayor that it is a Bad idea. Sci Fi Giant Ray Bradbury supports the Long Beach Main and The Acres of Books and when he visited recently no city official came to the packed house. There was virtually no media presence either. This once again reinforces my belief that the Long Beach Press Telegram is not an independent news organ. They are guilty of collusion with the city.
Ok, it may be cheaper just to build a new library as opposed to repairing the current Main Library but I haven't heard that being proposed. What has been proposed is opening all the sister branches up seven days a week and possibly building another Main branch later. Libraries open seven days a week? Cool!
But what about the current site? What happens to it? Tell me! Tell Me!
Now it could just be conspiracy but I don't think so because my BS sense is tingling. I've got a great BS detector! Ya see, all those new artist lofts the cities been building right across the street and the New Pike retail area just a little further up Ocean Blvd give the impression that you are trying to clear more space for a similar project. Of course that's just me.
Mr. Mayor the fact that the homeless choose to congregate in the gardens and parks in front of City Hall and removing said Library might help to eradicate that visual liability could that have something to do with it?
Now, I wouldn't blame you if that was one of your reasons but......if your immediate solution was just to sweep the problem out of the 1st district and into say......the less affluent 6th then think again! Then think again some more!
Here's my take, I love the downtown area, moved there as a younger man, learned, loved and dated my wife while doing poetry there. I loved the easy access to the trains, buses and the walk ability to the clubs and the grocery stores but most of all I love the Galleries and the Bookstores.
The Redevelopment Association does not love books and art as much as I do since they have closed down or are in the process of doing so most of the bookstores downtown but I will be damned if I will sit idly by while you close the Library!
Nooooooo, a neighborhoods charm is judged not just by the affluence of the people or the beauty of the buildings but most of all by the culture from it's literature, music and arts!
Good Luck Mayor Foster!
BE Careful! BE Mindful! BE Prayerful!