Sunday, May 17, 2009

Samia Bolling (Haddington Branch) Testimony at City Council May 9 (transcript)

MS. BOLLING: Good morning. My name is Samia Bolling. I am a member of the Friends of the Haddington Branch of the library, and I just wanted to take just my three minutes to talk about the history of our local Haddington branch.

Our Haddington branch was founded in December of 1915 by Albert Kelsey. Andrew Carnegie donated the library, and we found out doing some research. I'm not here to argue numbers or crunch numbers or budgets about who library saves and who should go, because I don't think anyone should be put in a room to decide my library or my community is more important than yours.

We are in an economic recession right now, and the Mayor's Office is funding a lot of programs that come through our local branch; for example, the Reentry for Ex-Offenders program. If we cut our service and our staff by, you know, three days a week, that could be one day that some young man or young woman could come in looking for a job and the library is closed. That could be the fate that decided they're going to try to go the right way or go back to a life of crime.

A lot of children use the library. Our library was just closed this Monday due to budget. We didn't have enough staff, and that affected a lot of people.

We are living in a digital age now, and right here currently in Philadelphia less than half of the library users even have access to a home computer, home Internet service, where a lot of kids are doing research now.

And I just wanted to give a little history about preserving the Carnegie libraries. And it seems to me that this is just going on.

Andrew Carnegie in 1903 donated 1,681 libraries across the United States. He gave out of his own pocket $41,233,853, you know, to donate to say that the libraries was here. He doesn't have any personal ties to our area. He just decided that every great city needs a library.

We do so much in our library right now. The question that we were asked to bring here before City Council to speak was what would this impact our communities if we were to operate on a reduced staff, a reduced budget and everything. So I just want to talk a little bit about the programs that we do in our library.

We have a childhood pre-school story time that has been affected. We have our Summer in the Science program – it is put on hold. Our reading program is put on hold. We have not had new magazines or periodicals since well over last year sometime. I think our last magazines are dated March and April of 2008.

We have a lot of people that volunteer. A few weeks ago we broke ground for a community garden, and we are still going to try to do that.

Our library impacts so many people in our community and it goes across race, economic, social, gender, handicapped, sexual orientation or religious background. And it would just really greatly impacts our community because we do so much in our community. We had the Maasai warriors from Kenya here. We offer a multi-cultural program so we can learn about diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Our own Councilman -- I'm in the 4th District -- Councilman Curtis Jones sponsors a children's parenting workshop every year. City Councilman Curtis Jones just gave a few recycling buckets to our Earth Day campaign that we kicked off this past Earth Day. Councilman Jones' office repeatedly comes and shows his staff. They always come and support any meeting we have at our library, and we just wanted to say thank you to our Councilman for always supporting us.

I have on my billboard here a picture that Councilman Jones took on the steps with our library back in November of 2008, and he said that he was going to fight for us, and we're just asking that not just Councilman Jones in our district -- I'm not here to argue about West Philly versus North Philly versus South Philly. We just want full funding restored to all of our libraries. The children and education is our future. Right now we are building more prisons than schools and we're tearing down libraries. So we just ask that you just think of the children and think of how this will greatly affect your community. If these kids don't have anywhere to go, they will pick up guns instead of books. They will pick up crime instead of knowledge. They will pick up hate instead of love for a community and for themselves.

So we just thank you, City Council, for taking the time out of your busy Saturday to listen to our concerns, and just save our libraries, because when you save our libraries, you save our city, you save our communities and you save ourselves and our future.

Thank you.


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