Holmesburg library to stay open, budget debate continues

By Christopher Wink

All of the Free Library neighborhood branches that were at risk of being closed to help cure a city budget shortfall will remain open until at least June 30, the end of the fiscal year — even the Holmesburg branch.

So announced the Nutter administration on Wednesday.

The move keeps the administration from having to spar with library advocates in Commonwealth court late next month, when the fight would have continued regarding a lesser court ruling that demanded the libraries remain open.

But the fight ain’t over. So says the administration.

“Nothing’s changed,” Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver told NEastPhilly.com today.  “We still have to have this tough conversation now for budget year 2010, which comes July 1.”

The upcoming court fight seemed moot because the administration felt a decision couldn’t be reached, and the 11 branches couldn’t be closed quickly enough for the city to find much savings in FY 2009, Oliver said.

But with another $1 billion budget loss looming, Nutter will still hit the road next month to hear public opinion on ways to get the city’s finances in order. Those public sessions with the University of Pennsylvania Project for Civic Engagement begin Thursday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at St. Dom’s in Holmesburg. (Find out more and see other planned locations here.)

The conversation will likely more broadly focus on the budget because really, it turns out, the Holmesburg library branch was never going to close. A deed from 1907 made certain that if the city were to close the branch, ownership would revert to the trustees at Lower Dublin Academy, according to the Inquirer.

The library-budget question isn’t answered, though. Closing those 11 branches was the primary way the Free Library was planning to reach the 20 percent or $8 million budget cut it agreed to take in November, said Free Library spokeswoman Sandy Horrocks. Now it seems all of the city’s library branches, including nearly a dozen in the Northeast, will likely reduce hours and face other operating cost-cuts.

That’s part of the city’s 2009 budget problem, while 2010, as Oliver says, is around the corner.

“We still have a billion dollar problem,” Oliver said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of heavy lifting left to be done by everyone.”

Image courtesy of MrSchu81.

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