South Anchorage resident Erica Kotizsh and her children Lily and Asher were regulars during pre-school story time at the Dimond Center branch library that closed in December, which is expected to save $431,000. It took about 10 minutes to get there from her Huffman-area house, she said. "It's almost 40 minutes to drive from my house to the Loussac. ... I'm still shocked that they closed the library. Who does that?"
Kotizsh was among the 300 to 400 people who patronized the Dimond branch daily.
That's not the only cut at the city's libraries. In 2009, employee furloughs forced the flagship Loussac and branches to reduce hours and days of service. The telephone reference librarian is gone, branches are open for fewer hours, some workers' hours were cut. Loussac's Alaska Collection, used by researchers, is open for 24 hours less per week.
Fines and fees, meantime, went up. Remember when an overdue book was 10 to 15 cents? Now adult books are 50 cents a day, up from 25 cents, and late youth books cost 25 cents, up from 10 cents.
In a bright spot, the city reopened the Mountain View branch in a renovated building paid for through philanthropic donations, as well as a city bond that included money to staff it.
Still, the advocacy committee of Friends of the Library and the Anchorage Library Foundation, noting this year's cuts and a history of reducing the library's budget that goes back to the administration of former Mayor Mark Begich, has produced a paper that says, "The Anchorage Public Library is in a struggle for survival."