Long Beach libraries have recently purchased yearly subscriptions of multiple online programs from Spanish-language learning courses to homework help for kids, but those services could be reduced or even eliminated in the years to come now that a supplemental source of funding has departed from Long Beach’s airport.
Starting in 2003, the airline JetBlue had agreed to pay fines after continuously violating the city’s noise ordinance, which governs the airport’s noise decibel allotments and commercial flight activity between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The settlement agreement meant that hundreds of thousands of dollars were sent every year to the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. The foundation then sent the money to Long Beach Library Services for it to purchase online programs and books for people to use.
Then the airline departed from the airport in October and expanded services at Los Angeles International Airport.
The airport’s June 2021 month noise report showed zero funds in the “Consent Decree” line item. About $2,100 outlined in the ”Airport Surcharges” line item in the June report were fines paid by aircraft operators, including commercial flights, as a result of noise violations, LGB spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall said, adding that those funds are returned to the airport.
The loss of revenue has not yet led to a funding crunch in library services, said Glenda Williams, Long Beach Library Services director, because they’ve already paid off the annual costs for subscriptions for programs used at the libraries.
These programs include homework help for kids, job search engines and downloadable audio and e-books.
However, once those annual subscriptions come up for renewal, Williams said the library will have to be “more wise” in its decision making to see what programs to keep and which to stop purchasing.
Following an audit of the library’s services, Williams said the library is focusing on increasing programs and books on different languages, such as Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog, to extend its language access.
Williams said services like the library’s new Spanish-language online VIP Learning program will most likely be kept. She added that officials understood that the JetBlue money wouldn’t last forever.
“We knew it was coming,” Williams said. The library’s current budget to purchase books and learning programs is $677,000. Williams estimated that JetBlue’s fine money averaged between $400,000 and $600,000 annually.
In 2019, JetBlue’s fines generated $532,000. In 2018 it brought in over $1 million.
Kimberly Caballero, communications manager for the library foundation, said the money was used to purchase books and materials distributed equally across all 12 Long Beach public libraries.
“The Library Foundation and Library never budgeted for the fines accrued from JetBlue’s noise ordinance violations,” Caballero said in an email.
The libraries, which are critical for low-income communities and for individuals who use its services for job help, is facing greater strain now that less funds will be available.
Caballero said that residents accessed more than a million library resources in fiscal year 2020, “showing our community’s great need for free educational tools, especially now as many are working to get their lives and livelihoods back on track.”
“The Library Foundation Board of Directors strongly believes that the city should increase the Library’s structural budget so that it may better serve our community with more resources and greater accessibility,” she added.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.