Advocates renew campaign to get more money for Philadelphia’s libraries

Free Library of Philadelphia.
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Supporters of Philadelphia's Free Library system are already gearing up for this year's budget battle. They want more money for the city's library branches, but last year's offensive had only modest success. 

The "Friends" of various branches staged their first City Hall rally this week — 10 days before Mayor Jim Kenney presents his budget to City Council — giving a clear indication they intend to pursue a similar strategy to last budget season with relentless protests and demands for more funding.

And they have a vision: a budget like the one they had before the recession, six-day service at all of the 54 branches, full staff to guarantee on-time openings, clean buildings in good repair, and funding for robust programming and supplies.

"Give us the money we need. We just want to do better for the city," said Julio Plaza, a Friend of the Kensington Library.

Like other advocates, he complains that understaffing and other operational shortages weakens the branches and, in turn, the communities they're in.

"If you give us the funding and you give us the capacity to act, we can face tomorrow with a better position for our society, for our entire country," Plaza added.

Audrey Ellis praised the staff and programming at her local branch, Fumo in South Philadelphia, but said she was shocked to learn they do it all on $200.

"Not $200 for the children's programming, not just $200 for the literacy programming, not just $200 for the teen programming or for the senior citizen programming, but for all library programming, $200," Ellis said at the rally as the crowd booed. 

Last year, they asked for $15 million to restore full funding. They got $4.5 million, a slight increase over what the mayor originally proposed. 

The administration says it can't talk about this year's budget yet because it's being finalized.