Sign of the Times: Philadelphia's Public Library to Close

ABC's Lisa Chinn reports from Washington:

The public library in Philadelphia may be closing its doors permanently. It would be the first closure of a public library in a major American city. The library is the sixth largest public library in the nation, and its precursor, the Library Company of Philadelphia, created by Benjamin Franklin, was the first public library in the United States.

Come October 2nd, all 53 library buildings throughout the city will close. Books and DVDs will no longer be available for loan. Free internet access will cease. The community programs and meetings held in the libraries will have to find another venue, and the GED and English as a Second Language educational programs will end.

The state of Pennsylvania has been operating without a budget since July 1st, and the city of Philadelphia was counting on a 1% sales tax increase and a change in pension payment plans to help them fund operations of the library. If that budget is not passed within the next two weeks, all library employees will be laid off.

Is it permanent? Sandy Horrocks, of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, says that they hope not. “The expectation is that when funding becomes available we will reopen.”

Already, the library is preparing layoff notices to be handed out this Friday, and the three week lending period for books and DVDs has been suspended as of last Friday.

But the city’s budget woes don’t end with the expected closure of the library. If the budget is not passed, the city is planning on closing all recreational facilities, laying off 1000 police officers and closing some fire department stations.

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