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US city mayor under fire for threatening libraries

US city mayor under fire for threatening libraries

Loud protests over proposed city budget cuts in Philadelphia are being voiced for places that are usually ghostly quiet _ libraries.
Mayor Michael Nutter was booed during a news conference Monday after deciding to shutter 20 percent of the U.S. city's 54 library branches in an effort to help close an estimated $1 billion spending gap over the next five years.
The mayor, who estimated the 11 library closings would save the city $8 million a year, said the facilities may reopen as public-private partnerships dubbed "knowledge centers" if the city can find enough financial partners.
Library advocates have been vocal since the mayor announced the budget cuts in November. Seven residents and a municipal union sued last week to stop the library closures, contending they are illegal and endanger poorer communities that don't have big chain bookstores and home Internet access.
The mayor is making other cuts, including lowering limits on curbside trash collection, consolidating fire companies, closing 68 of 81 swimming pools, cutting back on snow removal and on funding the city's annual New Year's Day parade.
On the library cuts, Nutter said he expected books, computers and other materials to stay at the "knowledge centers," but he could not say if they would be staffed by librarians.
The public-private partnerships could be with individuals, corporations, nonprofits or community groups, Nutter said, noting officials have received interest in five or six of the sites.
American Library Association president Jim Rettig said libraries work best as publicly funded entities with trained staff. "It makes as much sense to privatize your libraries as it does to privatize your police force," Rettig said.


Updated : 2021-05-06 15:56 GMT+08:00