The Future of Montecito Library

By Kelly Herrick   |   September 10, 2020
The Montecito Library could be managed differently in the future, as a new study shows that there may be a better model under which to operate, which would provide more local input and greater financial transparency than the current management and funding model

Next Monday, September 14, the City of Carpinteria’s Ad Hoc Library Committee and Working Group will make a presentation to the Carpinteria City Council, which could impact funding and management options for both Carpinteria and Montecito libraries.

In response to a Request for Qualifications for Library Consulting Services by the City of Carpinteria issued last November, consultant firm MJ Gómez Associates was selected to conduct an analysis of options for governance and operation of the Carpinteria and Montecito Libraries. Led by consultants Martin Gomez and Susan Hidreth, in consultation with Carpinteria City Manager Dave Durflinger and members of the Carpinteria City Council Ad Hoc Library Committee and Working Group (aka LWG), the team set out to analyze library service in Unincorporated Santa Barbara County, including the Montecito Library. Currently, both the Carpinteria and Montecito libraries are managed by the Santa Barbara Public Library system, following policy direction by the City of Santa Barbara.

In the last several years, the operating costs for the Carpinteria and Montecito libraries have increased significantly, primarily because of increases in administrative and materials acquisition costs. These increases have resulted in growing dependence on private funds to support library services. In November 2018, the City of Carpinteria passed a sales tax measure (Measure X) which allows them to contribute considerably more to the operating cost of the Carpinteria Library than was previously available, and that library also has a fundraising group, Friends of Carpinteria Library. Montecito is subsidized by their own Friends of Montecito Library, which has been supporting the library since 1975, and currently contributes roughly 1/3 of the library’s operating fees.

The goal of the recent analysis of the libraries is to determine if there is a better model under which to operate, which would provide more local input and greater financial transparency than the current management and funding model. The consultants found that the current system contributes to inequities for both the Carpinteria and Montecito libraries, and that it is in the best interest of the City of Carpinteria and library supporters in Montecito to form a separate new library zone.

To implement this recommendation, the City of Carpinteria would need to take the necessary steps to form its own municipal library and assume responsibility for the administration of a new library zone. In Montecito, the suggestion would require library supporters to seek approval from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to establish a county service area (CSA) that includes Montecito and the surrounding unincorporated areas as part of the new zone. “The current reliance on private funds raised by the Friends of the Library groups is not sustainable and does not align with the primary purpose of private support for public agencies – to enhance and increase basic services,” the report reads.

The CSA would be funded through a parcel or sales tax, which would require 2/3 approval of a public vote. The recommendation requires that the libraries would continue to be funded per capita as well as receive continued support from the Friends groups.

Gomez told us during a call last week that through his research, he found that although Carpinteria and Montecito are very different communities, the patrons utilizing the respective libraries are experiencing similar concerns, including lack of space and programming.

Pat Saley, head of the Friends of Montecito Library, as well as a member of the countywide Library Advisory Committee, tells us the increased budget needs have made it more challenging for the Friends to support the Montecito library. “Five years ago the budget was over $200K and the library was open six days a week. This year it’s $400K and it’s only open five days a week,” she explained. The Friends give the library about $125K each year, money which comes from fundraising and bequests. “We would love to figure out a better way to fund the library,” she told us, saying that the group would like to change the current funding model of the library, in order to have more input on programming and management. She hopes the meeting next week will lead to further exploration of setting up a municipal library district.

“We have to figure out a sustainable way to keep the library open five days a week,” Saley said. “We have a lot of irons in the fire, and it’s a matter of which makes the most sense.”

The Carpinteria City Council will consider the consultants’ report at their meeting on Monday, September 14. For more information visit www.carpinteria.ca.us.

 

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