The fight for Philly’s libraries

December 19, 2008

HERE IN Philadelphia, we've seen a victory come out of the mini-movement that has sprung up to organize against the proposed budget cuts: The City Council's vote on December 4 "urging Mayor Nutter to delay closing any city libraries to allow time for further analysis."

This was on top of the town hall meetings that the mayor has been forced to set up in various communities for him and his staff to explain these cuts. On the chopping block are 11 libraries, public pools, fire services and more. Through protest and attendance at city hall meetings, we've been able to collectively put enough pressure on council members to vote the right way, and this should be motivation to keep doing the work we're doing.

I've been directly involved with the organizing around the Kingsessing library closing in Southwest Philly. There have been different demands within the citywide protests, but the strongest have come from Southwest Philly, and they should offer an example of how to organize and what demands to put forward. We should demand that all the branches stay open for their full hours (whereas some groups and leaders have tried to set forth compromises from the start).

With the economy getting worse and future budget cuts on the way, now is the time to stand firm and demand what is rightfully ours. They can find their budget money from the millions in tax abatements given away by the city, from the corporations that owe the city, or by taxing the rich (as was chanted at the mayor at the recent town hall meeting at the Kingsessing Recreation Center: "Tax the rich! Tax the rich!").

What we're learning as a group of organizers is very important. There's enough militancy that if we don't get what we want by the slated closing time, we should think about physically occupying the building in protest.

We can take inspiration from our brothers and sisters in Chicago who occupied the Republic Windows & Doors factory and won. An occupation and sit-in in the Kingsessing library would show them just how serious we are about not letting our libraries go, and would make them think twice the next time social services are on the chopping block (which will be very soon).

Either way, the struggle is far from over. We need to set our minds on the future, and I look forward to organizing more and learning with my brothers and sisters in Southwest Philly and all over the city.

The mixture I see of love for the community and anger at the government's lack of proper leadership is the birthplace of revolutionary consciousness.
Matt Pillischer, Philadelphia

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