Attention voters! Support our library. After a quarter century our library seeks to overcome 24 years of inflation and associated reductions in our service. For our changing community to understand our library’s needs we must look back at the history and growth of local library service.
In early 1990, Lassen County and Lassen County Library struggled through severe budget limits. The county sought ways to protect vital services; county leaders determined the library and its services were not vital enough. Twice the county (by popular vote) tried to establish an independent district. The issue was voted down on a countywide basis; the second ballot allowed residents to form a district in areas supporting library operation. City of Susanville voters formed the district in 1994 — one of the few fee-supported library districts in this state. The district collected its first base revenue of $98,000 from a per residence fee of $28 per year. Those outside the district who wanted library services paid the same fee.
California Correctional Center inmates, in a few days, moved the library from its historic site to what today is the Sears Store. Shortly after this move the state librarian suggested funds were available for library construction. The local board determined that state, county and city financial assistance totaling $900,000, when combined with local contributions (more than $100,000) would not build an entire new facility. The board purchased an existing building, renovated it, added more than 1,000 square feet and equipped the building, creating a functioning library. The library board eagerly accepted help moving with the Correctional Center again assisting. CCC’s woodworking classes built new desks, refinished old ones and created the front desk work site.
We began with a few old computers, got more with initial state/local funds, grew significantly with Gates Foundation help and continue to update equipment with assistance of Friends of the Library. Book funds have been limited and community book donations have been a great help. Youth books gifts and Walmart grants have been a help. ZIP books have built library collections. Donations have helped greatly in building our books on tape and CD and DVD collections.
Once in the new library, the board hired our only full time librarian, Linda Pack. With her departure the district has only hired part time leadership. The dedication of part time front desk workers and volunteers makes the library function well. Twice, the state has provided staff to operate needed literacy programs. The library has assisted local adults in completing their high school education proctoring high school equivalency exams. One significant library change was developing the young adult reading area with comfortable furniture and adding many young adult books. The Children’s Room is kept busy, and Saturday events add enjoyment for these youngsters.
State funding grew, the library name changed to Lassen Library District with service in outlying areas assisted by the county school office. Almost as quickly as state funds grew, they declined; service reductions followed. The first position lost was the full-time librarian, but other personnel changes were required. Inflation reduced the library’s ability to meet community needs; the library cut operating hours and sought other means to provide service. The district’s basic fee support is more than $115,000 about a 17 percent increase in 24 years – verses a 68 percent inflation increase. Our library has lost the equivalent of 51 percent of its operating budget.
On June 5, voters of our library district will be asked for the first time in 24 years to increase their financial support. The yearly fee increase of $24 will fund library operation for less than one adult book costs or one Starbuck’s monthly coffee for a year. We who believe in the need for our library hope that you, the voters, will share our belief that our community deserves a functioning library.
We thank you for your support.