City Leaders Approve Budget Despite Concerns About Library System

 1524427865 
1601466098
Janae Pierre, WBHM

Demonstrators stand outside Birmingham's city hall while council members discuss the city's budget.

Protesters who have been fighting to save Birmingham’s public libraries say they feel ignored by city officials. Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside city hall Tuesday night, just hours before council members approved Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposed city budget for 2021. The budget includes nearly 250 furloughs, with more than half coming from the city’s library system.

The demonstrators called for city leaders to “fund books, not bullets.”

“We are spending $11.2 million more on our police department while cutting almost that, if not more, from the Birmingham Public Library system,” said Jamie Foster, a member of People’s Budget Birmingham

Woodfin said cuts to the library are necessary to make up a $63 million shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. During a budget work session prior to the council meeting, City Councilor Steven Hoyt voiced his frustration .  

“I know propaganda when I see it,” Hoyt said. “Because if, in fact, you’re going down the road of temporary then why so many layoffs?”

The city council passed the $412 million dollar budget with language that calls for furloughing more than 150 library employees. Foster said that hurts the poor, as well as young people because librarians offer an essential service to the community. 

“They help as job counselors and tutors,” he said. “They provide a direct service, not only catalogs and archives. It provides so many resources, not just for those who are disenfranchised, but for cultural memory here in Birmingham.”

Librarian Alice Speake, of the Irondale Public Library, said library closures in Birmingham affect the entire Jefferson County Library Cooperative

“There’s going to be a whole surge of people from other libraries coming into Irondale,” Speake said. “All I can think about is what are the logistics going to be for when all these other patrons have to move from their libraries to a new one.”

The Birmingham Public Library’s downtown location has reopened to the public, but city officials say that is the only location open at this time.  A few others will continue to offer curbside service.

More Arts and Culture Coverage

Erasing The Stain: 15,000 Pardoned Of Marijuana Possession Convictions

Mayor Randall Woodfin plans to pardon more than 15,000 Birmingham residents convicted of marijuana possession.

Jefferson County Nears Deal For New Humane Society

The plan is for Jefferson County to purchase lots one and two of the property, which would remain under county ownership. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society would purchase lot three and build an animal hospital and adoption control facility there.

Derek Chauvin Found Guilty Of George Floyd’s Murder

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, has been found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Past And Present Collide As Community Health Centers Strive To Close Rural Care Gaps In The Pandemic

Many rural health leaders believe community health centers, which were born in the 60s to reach low-income communities of color, were a missing piece in achieving equity in the vaccine rollout.

Birmingham Sets Up Civilian Board to Review Police Misconduct

The five-member board will have the authority to investigate citizen complaints and will have some subpoena powers to aid those investigations.

Big Union Loss At Amazon Warehouse Casts Shadow Over Labor Movement

Last week's overwhelming vote against forming a union at Amazon's Bessemer warehouse was the latest in a string of disappointments for labor unions. Now Amazon employees and union backers are trying to find a way forward.

More Arts and Culture Coverage