The Future of the Montecito Library

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   October 17, 2019
The future of the Montecito Library and potential governance options will be the topic of a community meeting next Thursday, October 24

Next Thursday, October 24, Montecito residents are invited to learn about how the Montecito Library is currently funded, and learn about several options the County is considering for the future, as the library has been facing some serious financial issues under the current system. “It’s one of the biggest issues we’ve been working on since Supervisor Williams took office,” said Darcel Elliott, First District Supervisor Das Williams’ Chief of Staff. 

The Friends of the Montecito Library are looking at several governance options to address the funding issue, including creating a special library district and merging with Carpinteria library. “We want to inform the public about the state of the library and options we are considering and, most importantly, receive input on what they want to see from and for our local public library,” Elliott said. 

The Montecito Library is funded through county and state revenues; it receives no money from the City of Santa Barbara, although human resources, payroll, and other services are contracted by the City. The branch survives on bequests from residents, and the non-profit group Friends of the Montecito Library (FOML), a charitable nonprofit 501(c)(3) community organization that was founded in1975. The library is open five days a week thanks to the Board of the FOML, who works hard to raise funds to keep the library open. Over 4,000 Montecito residents are active users of the library.

The County contracts with the City of Santa Barbara to manage both the Montecito and Carpinteria libraries and the cost of being a part of the system has gone up because the City has increased the administrative fee for managing the libraries in an effort to recoup its cost of providing administrative staff. The fees to be included in the Black Gold system that allows the libraries to share materials has also increased. “At the same time, reserves that previously closed funding gaps have run out,” Elliott explained, adding that the gaps have recently been filled using cannabis revenue. “Obviously we can’t predict how long that will be the case.” Supervisor Williams and his team have spent the last three years looking at the library system, how it’s managed, the services it provides, and how it is funded; the meeting next Thursday is to update the community on those investigations.

The County, with increased help from the Friends of the Montecito Library, is considering three different governance options for the Montecito Library in the future. The first option is the creation of a County Service Area: Montecito is one of the few unincorporated areas in the County that doesn’t have a County Service Area that creates dedicated revenue for specific services requested from the County. This option would create a dedicated revenue source for the Montecito Library and allow the County to continue to contract with the City of Santa Barbara or potentially the City of Carpinteria to provide library services. The second option is the creation of a Library District: this would be an independent special district, distinct from the Board of Supervisors, and would create a dedicated revenue source and a governing board for the Library that could contract with any entity to run the library or hire staff themselves to run it. 
The third potential option: the City of Carpinteria is considering separating from the County library system and managing their library themselves. If they were to do this, there is the potential that they would also manage the Montecito Library if there were a dedicated funding source for the library. The County will review all of these options at length next Thursday; County staff will also release a survey to collect information for those who cannot attend. 

The community meeting is Thursday, October 24, from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at Montecito Union School, 385 San Ysidro Road. All County residents, including children, are welcome to attend the meeting; refreshments and Spanish interpretation will be provided. The meeting is hosted by Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Das Williams in coordination with the Friends of the Montecito Library, Friends of the Carpinteria Library, and the City of Carpinteria. Please contact Darcel Elliott with any questions or to request accommodations at 805-568-2186 or


You might also be interested in...