Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Greater Olney branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, located in the middle of Olney’s bustling 5th Street commercial district, is an oasis of knowledge and tranquility in a neighborhood no stranger to problems. As one of the area’s civic institutions, it offers essential services such as free computer access, childcare programs, English as a Second Language learning materials, and a twice-weekly GED course.
It has been a struggle to keep it that way though, with repeated budget cuts raining down from City Hall. Last year, the branch—as well as the whole library system—was nearly shut down as part of Mayor Michael Nutter’s “Doomsday Budget,” and narrowly avoided another $2.5 million in cuts this year. The library remains open, although a series of smaller, stacking budget cuts is making it increasingly harder to do so.
Recently, the library has run into a rut of staff shortages, causing the library to sporadically close down for the day with little notice. The lack of reliability has started to create a rift between its users and partner organizations in the neighborhood. Jeff Nair, one of the branch’s librarians, says that the lack of funding has essentially reduced the staff to a skeleton crew that struggles to meet the community’s demand.
“We’re doing the best we can, and we’re as frustrated internally as our patrons are externally.”
By Zack Shapiro and Michelle Kraus
Group 6: Olney/East Oak Lane
Posted by Zack Shapiro at 7:22 AM