As the numbers of COVID cases in El Paso continue to decline more and more, activities are beginning to be allowed with various restrictions for safety. Our churches have resumed services, some schools are having in person classes, football games are being played, and restaurants have certainly started to see more customers. Libraries across Texas and the rest of the country are finding innovative ways of safely opening and serving the public again.
We do not believe the city has any excuse for not proceeding to some sort of limited opening of our libraries. As a city with a high rate of illiteracy, our citizens need the access to the computers and printers as well as the books. It is our most vulnerable citizens that are being affected by shuttered libraries, the elderly, the financially at risk, and our students.
This September our furloughed librarians are entering their 6th month of unemployment. Those benefits expire after 6 months. While there is a chance they might get an extension on those benefits it is not automatic. Our librarians need to resume their jobs.
At a recent city council meeting the cities financial officer stated the librarians had been offered temporary jobs but had not taken them. In order to take those jobs they would have had to resign their position, thus losing their benefits, seniority, and requiring them to reapply for their position when the libraries do reopen. I find it troubling that this picture of the librarians being unwilling to work is being propagated to our city council representatives. They are anxious to resume their duties and their interrupted lives.
It comes down to finances. The city has apparently decided that financially they cannot afford to reopen our libraries. Yet, raises have been reinstated, merit bonuses have been accepted by the some of the highest paid individuals, and stimulus checks have been given to city employees. Not the furloughed employees, though. This seems morally corrupt. That our librarians and the library system are being damaged in this way is heartbreaking. Our libraries are the first line of defense against illiteracy in any society. It is incredible that the literacy of our city is seen as unimportant by city leaders or at the very least something to be deferred.
The current status of El Paso’s public libraries being closed the rest of the year is outrageous. The city of El Paso can find the funds to restore city employees to their positions just as other cities have. Libraries should be a priority. Do we really want to be the type of city that does not value libraries and their importance in the lives of its citizens?
Help us reach our city officials to demand that the libraries be reopened. Share your personal story, what you miss and what you need from our libraries.
You can reach the mayor and your city representatives at 300 N. Campbell El Paso Texas 79901 or email them at:
Simply replace the district number with your own when emailing your representative.
District 1 – Peter Sverzbein
District 2 – Alexsandra Arnello
District 3 –Cassandra Hernandez
District 4 – Dr Sam Morgan
District 5 – Isabel Salcido
District 6 – Claudia Lizette Rodriguez
District 7 – Henry Rivera
District 8 – Cissy Lizarrega