Library funding should have had a better outcome at the final facilities bond committee meeting earlier this month. While I am glad that our hub of the community, Las Palmas Library, received its funding, we missed the mark as a city by not recommending funding the renovation of the Bazan Library or the creation of an express library at Port San Antonio. We must do better to find funding to move forward with those projects.
Libraries are incredibly important in helping raise students out of poverty as well as providing services to their families. San Antonio missed an opportunity to fund libraries that are not only important to the residents of the West Side but the city as a whole. Not adequately funding the Bazan Library and the express library at Port SA flies in the face of San Antonio’s efforts to provide education and training for residents who have been historically left out and continues the city’s long history of underfunding the West Side.
Bazan Library is so much more to my community in zip code 78207 than those who do not live here know. Not only is it a library with books and magazines that interest all age levels — or as our board trustee chair put it at a recent bond meeting, “a library with everything from TikTok to the Bible,” — it is also a LEARN Center and meeting space for many neighborhood associations.
Bazan deserves this improvement, and so does its community.
The problem with the way funding in our city is dispersed is we end up in a conversation about wants and not one about needs. I was astonished to hear conversations about parking lot expansion from committee members when we are fighting for needs that other areas of our city have in multitudes.
The word “equity” was thrown around so much during these conversations, but the practice of equity was rarely followed. While it is great that we have a so-called equity budget, what we really need is a city that will champion equity with more than just words. I would rather see us focus our attention and energy on understanding just how improper the dividing of funds has been over the years in all of the budget packages. I could bet that Districts 2, 4 and 5 are at the bottom of the list of the allocation of funds.
When we as a community support our residents in most need, we actually begin to carve out the path to reconciliation that many of us see a need for. That means funding institutions like the Bazan Library, one of the smaller libraries that serves one of the bigger populations, and idealistic projects like the express library which fills a service gap in areas like the Quintana neighborhood.
Council still has an opportunity to right this wrong on the dais. They can reallocate funding that is being pushed to outside institutions rather than city facilities for a community that has been overlooked for decades.
Just like Assistant City Manager Lori Houston identified additional ways to fund projects like the Guadalupe Theater using TIRZ funding, we can find ways to fund projects like Bazan Library and the express library. This means making the ask of our TIRZ boards and making the asks in upcoming general fund budgets.
There are other ways to fund these important projects if we do the work to find them.
I leave you with this: Bazan Library, formerly the Prospect Hill Library, was located inside the Mexican American Unity Council building back in 1977. A history of Mexican American civil rights is intertwined with this library to its core and that history of civil rights advocacy will always prevail on the West Side of San Antonio. We will not stop until we find that funding, the same way that those before us did not stop until they earned the rights to vote, buy land and step foot into sacred places like libraries.