Nutter apologizes for 'worst decision': Cutting library funds

Posted: March 08, 2014

Calling library closings the "absolute worst decision" in his 20 years in elected office, Mayor Nutter took time in his budget address Thursday to apologize for the cuts he made in 2008.

City Council "was right on this issue . . . and I've been determined to correct my mistake ever since," Nutter said after proposing a $2.5 million increase for the Free Library.

The new funding would let the library system hire 43 people and keep all neighborhood libraries open six days a week. Since the 2008 budget cuts, most of the branch libraries have been open only five days.

If Council approves Nutter's budget, library director Siobhan Reardon said, she hopes to increase community outreach programs. The libraries are one of the largest providers of free Internet service in the city, she said. Along with students using library computers to do homework or seek summer work, adults go online to job-hunt or apply for social services, including health care.

In 2008, the city cut $8 million of the library's $41 million budget, leading to elimination of 117 staff positions, though not all were filled at the time, Reardon said.

After his budget speech, Nutter appeared to choke up as he talked about the libraries with reporters.

"It is the absolute worst decision I have made in the time I have been in public office," he said, pausing for 10 seconds to gather his composure.

"I have a very deep and personal appreciation for library services," he said. "I know what libraries did for me as a kid."

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