The Lassen Library District needs our help. Why? Our library has been under funded since it was forced out of county library service. State, and, therefore, county budgets had become very lean in the 1990s when county leaders closed our library. In 1994, the newly elected library board considered its potential operating budget.
Recognizing that the new district could not serve at the level the old library had, the board selected a basic per residence fee for library operation, having looked at Modoc and Plumas library models. At that time, the projected district income was much less than half of that of either county. Based on current state of California library operation statistics, Modoc County’s population is only two-thirds of the Lassen district, and Modoc spends two and one half times more on library services. Plumas serves 50 percent more people while spending 331 percent more for library service to its patrons.
Currently, the Lassen Library District is seriously under-funded. Our library cannot afford a full-time librarian and has not had such leadership for 20 years. Several years ago, our library reduced work hours for part-time staff and reduced operating hours. Most recently, special state funding has allowed the library to open two added hours per week. Still, our library has one third fewer full-time equivalent staff than the Modoc library. The Plumas Library employs two and one half times our staff numbers with only 50 percent more library users. Your library works because dedicated staff and volunteers make it work, but they would appreciate your help.
Similar comparisons can be made with Lassen High School and the Susanville elementary schools. Per capita the Lassen library spending is significantly lower than library service spending in these districts. The same is undoubtedly true for Lassen Community College. While I applaud the library service for these students, I recognize Lassen Library’s needs cannot continue to be met with current library funding levels. The impact of a single issue, the state’s increase in the minimum wage, will force our library to reduce staff and operating hours without the help of the proposed fee increase.
Are there other areas of neglect – yes. The Lassen Library has roofing, lighting, electrical and parking lot repair issues, which cannot be adequately addressed with current funding. Patches can be made, but they are not the proper long-term solution.
After 24 years of restricted library funding, your library comes to you seeking help. Looking at the lines at our community’s coffee shops, I would suggest that for the cost of one cup of their coffee per month, the library would bloom with your $2 monthly assistance. Please recognize the library needs of our children, our youth and our community. Support our library through Measure L in the coming election. Please vote yes June 5.