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Library Commission Acts to Enhance Library Services

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Library Commission Acts to Enhance Library Services

On Monday July 18th, the Sonoma County Library Commission approved placing a locally-controlled library funding measure on the November 2016 ballot to maintain, restore, and enhance library services across the County’s 14 Library branches. 

“We know how important local libraries are to each of our communities,” said Library Director Brett Lear. “Our libraries are one of the few places left in our communities that benefit everyone, including children, seniors, and the disabled. I’m gratified to see the Commission take the steps necessary to allow the community to consider investing this community resource.” 

“Our libraries play a critical role in Sonoma County. In the past year alone, residents made over 2 million library visits and checked out more than 3.3 million items,” Lear added. “More than that, our libraries provide books, computer access, classes, and services for County residents who cannot afford to buy them.” 

If adopted by voters, the Measure provides locally-controlled funds to restore library hours, upgrade technology and provide computer labs at every library branch, keep qualified librarians, and maintain early-literacy programs for more than 73,000 Sonoma County children. 

“Every library operated under the Sonoma County Library system benefits from this funding,” said Commission Chair Helena Whistler. “The Measure requires that every dollar from these revenues raised within the County stay local, and the State cannot touch a single cent.”  

The Measure would also allow the library to maintain programming for Sonoma County students, as well as explore new partnerships with Sonoma County schools.

“Some of our communities’ local school libraries have been closed or severely limited to only a few hours per week, which makes our local public libraries more important than ever,” said Lear. “Our programs, such as our weekly Homework Help program, provide a safe place for youth to do their homework and participate in after school programs.” 

In particular, the Measure allows the Library to begin restoring library hours across the different branches, as well as retaining quality librarians at all branches. 

“The Recession hit our Library system particularly hard, leaving us with reduced revenues and growing expenses,” said Chief Financial Officer Ken Nieman. “Since 2011, we reduced library hours by 25%, limiting Library access to people who need it the most. This measure will prevent further cuts, restore lost hours and services, and expand weekend hours.” 

The Library District funding is subject to the library district’s annual, independent financial audits and public review of expenditures.

 “Funding for the Library District is subject to strict fiscal scrutiny,” continued Nieman. “Revenue provided by this Measure would have the same stringent fiscal protections.”

Without this Measure, local libraries will be forced to implement significant cuts to programs and services, including reducing or eliminating library programs for children and seniors; purchasing fewer books and databases; and further reducing library hours.

“The public library offers so many things to so many people,” said Library Commissioner Reece Foxen. “It gives children and adults the opportunity to learn and the freedom to dream without limits.”