The following is a letter sent to KHTS co-owner Carl Goldman by County Librarian Margaret Donnellan Todd. The letter is in rebuttal to an editorial published July 29 regarding privatization of library service in Santa Clarita. Read the original editorial here.
I believe it is very important that the citizens of Santa Clarita receive accurate information regarding the decision whether the City should eliminate County Library services and hire a for profit company to run the local libraries.
I wish you had contacted me prior to your editorial so I could have corrected some of the misinformation that is being circulated around the community.
First, special tax dollars have always been spent on library service in the City. That information is documented and is public knowledge. In addition, millions of dollars have not been diverted outside the City of Santa Clarita. Our cost of operations report demonstrates the fact that over the past eight years, the City has only had a slight surplus in the last two years. During those years the County Library invested over $400,000 in planning for the three library facilities. Those costs were not reflected in the City’s cost of operations report. Prior to that, the County Library was subsidizing City library services.
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Further, Santa Clarita has suffered no reductions in service in spite of the budget crisis. Ten years ago, the County Library made a commitment to our cities that all funding collected in a city would go toward library services for the residents of that city. We have honored that commitment.
Residents need to understand that you will not have full access to the County collection. As residents of a separate and much smaller jurisdiction, you can request materials via interlibrary loan but it will take longer and County customers will have first priority in the use of those materials. In addition, City residents may be charged to borrow books from other jurisdictions including the County Library.
Simply increasing hours does not equate to an improvement in services. Excellent library service is more than just open hours. What about the County Library’s innovative programming for children and teens such as Family Place, Homework Centers and special programs like the American Idol Songwriting Extravaganza? Libraries are also about 24/7 virtual services such as Live Homework help, databases, etc. Because of our size, we are able negotiate very favorable rates for expensive online database subscriptions and discounts for books and materials that would not be available or affordable for a smaller library system.
Residents need to be wary of a comparison between a privately contracted local transit system and a library. Libraries are a far more complex operation.
The County of Los Angeles Public Library provides outstanding service to the residents of Los Angeles County. The County Library allows each library to design its services to meet the needs of the community. We believe this is a very successful model.