Friends and volunteers are needed to help restore service, but saving the library with such a large LGBTcollection will be a struggle.

Phyllis Guest Guest Contributor

The Oak Lawn Library — the center for the largest LGBT population and site of a large LGBTQ collection of fiction, nonfiction, CDs and DVDs — needs the immediate, ongoing and outspoken support of our community.
City of Dallas budget proposals for 2011 would take a meat axe to funding for the entire system, comprising the Central Library downtown and 26 branches.

Here is what our community can now get at the Oak Lawn Library:
• Convenience: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Free book rentals, including fiction, biographies, cookbooks and how-to books.
• Free DVDs, including gay and straight hits, documentaries and TV series.
• Free WiFi access and quiet tables in well-lighted working areas.
• A free online catalog, searchable from home or at the library.
• Free, confidential help available through income tax season.
• Free meeting space for organizations, including the area crime watch group.
• Free use of computers for job searches and submitting online applications.
• Free ESL classes and a range of other learning opportunities.
• And for LGBTs with children, many age-appropriate programs.

Here is the outlook from the city’s 2011 budget proposals:
• Oak Lawn Library would open the same hours, but with half the staff.
• Pages — half-timers who haul, sort and shelve materials — would be gone.
• Pages’ work would be left for remaining staff and community volunteers.
• Central Library research and reading areas would open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
• Dallas’ system would lose its American Library Association accreditation.
• Without accreditation, state, federal and grant funding would all be lost.

So let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what Oak Lawn Library needs:
• New “Friends” members — costing as little as $15 a year.
• Supporters wearing buttons at citywide budget meetings being held through August.
• Speakers to attend City Council, political and community meetings.
• Letters, e-mails and calls to City Council members and the media.
• Reliable volunteers, because the library is already shorthanded.

Two years ago, the library was funded to the tune of $32 million. The 2011 proposal is for $13 million, a reduction of 57.5 percent. The earlier sum included $3.7 for materials (a little over $3 per patron). The 2011 proposal slashes that to $167,000 (about 12 cents per patron).

That’s our starting place. Dallas is the “epicenter” of the dropout debacle, is home to more than 20 percent of persons who lack “basic” literary skills, and is allergic to taxes. So saving our library will be a struggle. And unless we stand up, speak out, and fight, we have already lost.    •

Phyllis Guest is an LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.