The City of Los Angeles Public Library system serves “the largest population of any public library system in the U.S.” — 3.8 million — new Los Angeles Public Library city librarian Fontayne Holmes told library supporters at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Venice Library at the Venice Abbot Kinney Memorial Library Saturday, June 18th.

The City of Los Angeles Public Library system has 71 branches throughout the city, including many that have just recently been built or refurbished.

In 1989, city voters approved bonds designed to fund 26 new libraries across the city.

But with some clever financial management and other fundraising stimulated by the bond passage, the city built not 26, but 29, new libraries, Holmes said.

Because of the passage of the 1989 bonds and the 29 new libraries, city library officials were a bit hesitant to return to the voters to seek approval of additional bonds, Holmes said.

But in November 1998, Los Angeles City Proposition DD, a $178 million bond measure for additional libraries, passed with 73 percent approval of those voting, allowing the city to build 32 additional city libraries.

This year, with additional funds for technology, the city has been able to spend $3,000 to upgrade computers at each of the city libraries, Holmes said.

In the budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday, July 1st, the City of Los Angeles Public Library System will receive $115 million, an increase from previous years, Holmes said.

“The use of our libraries has increased,” Holmes told the Friends of the Venice Library. “We circulated 50 million items last year.”

While the bonds fund the physical library buildings, they do not allow funding for furniture, collections or staff, Holmes said.

“City funds pay for staff,” she added.

Funds also come from a separate library support organization, The Library Foundation, which raises $4 million to $5 million a year to help the city library system.

The issue of funding staff for existing and new libraries that were being built and opening became a difficult problem for the Los Angeles Public Library system, Holmes admitted.

“While we had the positions, we couldn’t hire because the city was under a hiring freeze,” the city librarian said.

The library system has 1,150 full-time-equivalent and 1,300 half-time positions, but there are still 158 vacant positions that need to be filled — 14 percent of the library’s staff, she said.

“Everybody has been out there for three years, just hanging on,” Holmes said.

Lucille Cappas, Venice Abbot Kinney Memorial Library senior librarian, said the Venice library still has one full-time position and a part-time position vacant out of 14 positions.

Holmes says that she considers the staff vacancies at Venice library to constitute one and a half positions.

LIBRARY PROGRAMS ñ During the annual meeting, Friends of the Venice Library president Lenore Ritkes noted several outstanding programs at the Venice library.

Especially outstanding, she said, are the library’s programs for children, which include Monday night programs where grandparents read to youngsters.

The Friends group donated a new carpet for the children’s reading area and the youngsters were quick to notice the addition, Ritkes said.

She also pointed to an adult literacy program led by Bill Wells that is considered the largest in the city.

“More matched readers and non-readers” are in this program than in any other such program in the city, Ritkes said. There are some 16 adult literacy centers in the city, the Friends members were told.

Ritkes also is continuing her efforts to have an arts and architecture collection established at the Venice library to note the large number of artists and architects in the Venice area.

She admitted that the type of collection she envisions might be so valuable it would have to be stored “under lock and key.”

BOARD MEMBERS

ELECTED — During the meeting, the Friends of the Venice Library also elected to its board for 2005-06:

Judy Borne;

Estella Burnett;

Bert Fallon;

Joan Del Monte;

Onita Morgan-Edwards;

Shelly Hochberg;

Gwen Howard;

Carol F. Jones;

Paul Kuzniar;

Maxine Leral;

Kathy Owens;

Ellie Riley;

Lenore Ritkes;

Dolores Rivera;

Alex Rosales; and

Nadine Rosales.

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