Libraries throughout the county will soon receive money promised by the Board of Supervisors in budget hearings and included in the 2017-18 fiscal year budget, but board members are divided over the method used to allocate library funds.
Supervisors unanimously authorized Chairwoman Joan Hartmann to execute the first amendment to the countywide library system operating agreement that will increase the funds going to the cities of Lompoc, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara by a total of $162,000.
That will bring the total allocation to just over $3.8 million, which is divided among the three cities and used to operate their main libraries as well as the smaller libraries in their zones.
For example, in Zone 3, Santa Maria provides library services to branch and satellite libraries in Cuyama, Guadalupe, Los Alamos and Orcutt as well as the main Santa Maria library.
In Zone 2, Lompoc provides library services to the smaller libraries in Vandenberg Village and Vandenberg Air Force Base in addition to the Lompoc Library.
And in Zone 1, Santa Barbara provides services through its main library as well as the satellite and branch libraries in Buellton, Los Olivos, Solvang, Santa Ynez, Isla Vista, Montecito and Carpinteria.
The board agreed to add the $162,000 to the original contract amount primarily to assist the smaller libraries by maintaining the “status quo” — preventing closures, reductions in hours and losses in services and programming.
But rather than allocate the funds based on per capita — the number of people served by the libraries in each zone — it was divided up by need, which was determined by the county staff working with the three cities’ library directors
Santa Barbara will get the bulk of the funds at $90,000, of which $75,000 will be spent to maintain “status quo” hours and services at the Carpinteria Library and $5,000 each for Montecito, Solvang and Buellton libraries to buy a new combination printer, copier and scanner for each site.
Santa Maria will get $50,000, of which $15,728 will be spent on two self-checkout machines for the Santa Maria Public Library and $15,000 will be spent to maintain hours and services at Guadalupe.
Orcutt will get $900 to maintain hours and services along with another $7,864 for a self-checkout machine, and $10,508 will be spent on new materials and replacing worn-out materials at the Los Alamos, Guadalupe and Cuyama libraries.
Lompoc will receive $22,000, with $17,000 of that used to buy 16 new computers for the Vandenberg Village and Lompoc libraries, which is expected to reduce the amount of time the information technology staff has spent maintaining the old machines.
The remaining $5,000 will be used to buy new materials and replace worn-out materials at the Vandenberg Village and Lompoc libraries.
But opinion was split among supervisors about funding by per capita or by need.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf favored per capita funding, noting a lot of money went to Santa Maria and Lompoc libraries.
“I think in the process of allocating funding, there can be a lot of missteps,” she said. “I think a better way was by per capita one-time funds.”
But 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said for maintaining status quo, it wouldn’t balance out.
“If you say you’re going to save libraries and base it on per capita, it only helps large libraries stay open,” he said. “It doesn’t help the small libraries.”
He also pointed out that in most areas, the cities fund their libraries and the counties fund the small ones.
Wolf said she would like to see a definition of a “small library.”
But 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was loathe to reopen the library funding equation debate.
“I don’t want to go down that road again,” he said.
County Chief Executive Officer Mona Miyasato reminded the board the county increased library funding the last two years but will be facing “a difficult budget year” in 2018-19.
“We will be facing difficult decisions,” she said.