Santa Barbara County’s public library system will need an infusion of nearly $711,000 every year to meet the minimum standards established for the various branches, according to a report delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 5.
The perennial problem of where to get the cash persists, but supervisors directed the staff to pull in elected leaders from the county’s eight cities to help set priorities, increase funding to meet minimum standards, establish facility needs and tap into state and federal funds for facility upgrades and program expansion.
Supervisors made the decision as part of a report on the Library Ad Hoc Committee’s efforts to come up with an equitable funding method and a less complicated system of governing the county’s libraries, which are separated into four zones.
Currently, the county contracts with four cities — Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta and Santa Barbara — and the large municipal libraries they fund to administer nine branch libraries.
Santa Maria Public Library administers the Guadalupe, Orcutt, Los Alamos and Cuyama branches in Zone 3, while Lompoc Public Library handles the Vandenberg Village branch in Zone 2.
Goleta Valley Library administers the Buellton and Solvang branches in Zone 4, and the Santa Barbara Public Library takes care of the Montecito and Carpinteria branches in Zone 1.
Four of the nine branches are in smaller cities — Guadalupe, Buellton, Solvang and Carpinteria — and receive funding from both their city governments and the county. The remaining five only receive county funds.
“The model that we have for our libraries in Santa Barbara County is not modeled anywhere else in the state,” said 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who serves on the ad hoc committee. “And it’s evolved, and people are committed to some version of this, so we can’t wholesale change it. So we’ve got to figure out how we can … make it more efficient and leverage our resources.”
In fact, a graphic explanation of the county’s library system presented by Ryder Bailey, the county’s chief financial officer, required four pages with additional layers added by each one until the final organizational chart looked like an electrical schematic.
Hartmann also noted the county’s libraries are underfunded, receiving less than both the statewide and national average per capita funding.
Yet Chairman and 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson pointed out the funding inequities within the county system itself, noting most of the branches receive twice as much money per capita as the Orcutt branch and some receive six times as much.
The Orcutt branch would require the largest amount of annual funding to meet minimum standards at $245,775, but that figure includes rent because the county doesn’t own its building, according to the report.
The cost for the Guadalupe branch, which also must pay rent for its facility, comes in second at $130,885.
Costs for other North County branches are $64,084 for Los Alamos, $53,662 for Vandenberg Village, $49,879 for Cuyama, $22,900 for Buellton and $22,500 for Solvang.
However, it should be noted the minimum standards for staff, hours of operation, collections, programs, technology and facilities for each branch vary based on the branch size, Bailey said.
First District Supervisor Das Williams, who also serves on the ad hoc committee, advised members and staff to keep an eye on such benchmarking as well as the funding analysis.
“I think we have to think about ‘what is the solution in the long run,’” Williams said. “And it’s going to involve money.”