On March 8, Echo Park voters will ponder 10 ballot measures in a municipal election.
One of them, Measure L, would increase city funding for libraries to a projected $130 million dollars.
The Public Library Funding Charter Amendment would give libraries a bigger share of property tax revenues through an amendment to the City Charter.
Libraries, in return, would be gradually required to pay a bigger share of expenses like salaries, pensions, equipment and building maintenance, so called "direct and indirect" costs, now coming from the city's General Fund.
Libraries, like many institutions, are having a tough time.
Last summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council voted to limit libraries to a five-day-a-week service on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
That decision was historical since, in their 139-year-history, Los Angeles libraries have always remained open at least six days a week.
Morning and evening hours were also trimmed, and staff (328 positions, over 25 percent) eliminated through attrition, layoffs and early retirements.
Then in January Governor Jerry Brown proposed a statewide budget to eliminate all state funding for public libraries--a total of $30.4 million.
All this turmoil has some wondering if it's the beginning of the end for free access to Internet, computers, and printers as well as tutoring, literacy programs and, of course, books.
"I budget a good portion of my day to use the libraries," said Ryan Vaughn who uses the "It's crucial for work because I don't have Internet at home."
Matthew Potter, who also uses the free wireless at the Echo Park Library, recalled a frustrating time last summer.
He came to the library only to find a sign saying it was closed. "People aren't up in arms enough about it," he said.
Potter and Vaughn echoed the concerns of many locals since the city's 73 libraries got slammed by budget cuts last year.
It was "devastating" to lose staff, said Joelle Dobrow, president of the Friends Society, which fundraises for the library through its booksales.
"Libraries provide free computers where kids can do their homework and adults can look for work and file unemployment. It creates a level playing field."
Measure L would increase the percentage of the city 's projected property tax revenues to fund libraries over four years. The percentage would rise from .0175 percent to .0300 percent assessed property value.
Monies from going to the libraries would increase from about $76 million dollars this year to a projected $102 million in 2012-13 and to $130 million in 2014-2015.
Measure L won't require residents or property owners to pay more taxes or fees, but it reallocates funding from one of the city's general fund departments to another.
Increased funding for libraries could mean lowering funds for other services, like street sweeping, the fire department or law enforcement.
"I love the libraries, but what concerns me is that the city says it won't raise taxes, but it is not talking about where the money will come from," said James O'Sullivan, President of Miracle Mile Association and a proponent of Measure L.
Sullivan was invited to convene with The Los Angeles Times before the paper published its editorial opposing the measure. "It's making a decision in the dark," he said.
"The measure could mean cuts to police, fire, parks and recreation, and street services," added Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber in a statement.
"Measure L simply mandates the movement of money from one pot to another and restricts its use," he said.
Although the Los Angeles Police Department denied a request to comment, it is publicly known Chief of Police Charlie Beck personally supports Measure L.
So do all 15 LA City Council members.
In Echo Park, many would be relieved to see the library open more often again.
"The biggest complaint City Council members get regarding services are the library closures," said Dobrow of the Friends Society. "That's why council members support Measure L."
Children's author and former librarian Erica Silverman was reassigned twice after leaving the West Temple location.
She said that when things shift—such as librarians—the community feels it.
"It's painful to see libraries diminished and the effect it has had on our patrons," she said.
Omar Gabriel, who lives within walking distance of the Echo Park Branch, has noticed a decrease in attendance. "People don't show up anymore at the library because it's closed," he said.
Professor Emeritus Stephen Krashen of USC's Rossier School of Education has studied the topic of libraries and published "Protecting Students Against the Effects of Poverty: Libraries".
"Library use has increased as our economic problems have gotten worse, said Krashen. "At the same time support has decreased."
"Access to lots of books can make up for the effect of poverty, at least in literacy development," he added.
Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council President Jose Sigala said Measure L gives the community a voice in determining the city's priorities.
"Libraries close the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots," said Sigala. "By reducing services it makes it harder for these kids to get ahead."
There will be a rally in support of Measure L Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Angeles Mesa Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library at 2700 West 52nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90043.
For more information on all March 8 ballot measures, including Measure L, visit here.