Library abandons countywide service
Feb. 5, 2013 — The members of the Lassen Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously at their December meeting to terminate the library’s efforts to provide library services to all residents of Lassen County, an effort the library embarked on in 2006. The decision was made after assessing the library’s failure to obtain the required voter approval to expand the current library tax to all county residences at the November general election. Balloting data for Measure W show most county voters didn't share the library’s dream of providing countywide library services.
Board President Amy Owens said voter approval of the tax measure was a legal requirement for the library to maintain the library district’s boundary — the same as that of the county — and to continue to provide the few services it was able to provide.
“Without that approval,” said Owens, “the library board was faced with the options of trying to get voter approval at a future election or taking the library in another direction. The board members felt the low level of support for the tax expressed by voters living outside of the Susanville area would be insurmountable in any future election and chose to pursue the option that will return the library to providing the best possible library services to Susanville area residents.”
Lassen Library’s boundary was expanded in September 2006 via administrative action by the Lassen County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) from being coterminous with the boundary of the city of Susanville to the boundary of Lassen County. The library made the application to increase its share of state funding to libraries based on population served, and using the resulting increased level of funding to implement library services to all county residents. At the time Lassen County was the only California county without countywide library services. Within a few years that state funding had been reduced significantly and ultimately eliminated in 2011.
“The countywide service plan never really got off the ground,” said library director Jeff Hawkins, “due to the combination of insufficient financial support, varying levels of desire for library services by county residents and too few people resources to make it happen. It became obvious the envisioned service plan, as noble as it was, was going to be too much for the library to implement.”
At their December meeting the board of trustees also approved action to petition LAFCO to have the boundary of the library district moved back to its pre-September 2006 location and they set a strategic direction for the library to concentrate its efforts on serving the people within the immediate Susanville area to the best of its ability. The library will seek community input via comprehensive surveys to formulate the library's future programming and community support offerings.
“This effort will define everything the library does in the next couple of years,” said Hawkins. “We will provide programs and services that meet the needs and wants of all community members, that increases the visibility of the library in the community and shows the library is still a relevant institution that does and can make important contributions to the community.”
Owens said the library has no choice but to return to the voters in an upcoming election to ask for increased financial support. The degree to which the library succeeds in its community outreach efforts will decide the outcome of that election and the future viability of the library, said both Owens and Hawkins.
“The tax rate hasn’t been increased since it was first collected in 1995. Lost purchasing power alone has reduced the library’s financial foundation by 50 percent. The loss of state funding, at $32,000, was another 18 percent of the library’s revenues. The library will not survive without increased financial support by the community,” said Owens.
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