Sep 12 2010

Library Access: New Options

The City of Piedmont now has an opportunity to consider how library service funds of up to $350,000 can be best utilized. 

For more than 10 years, the City of Piedmont has paid up to $350,000 annually to the Oakland Public Library for library services for Piedmont residents. However, as residents of Alameda County, Piedmont taxpayers also pay for Alameda County library services through their local property and state taxes. In addition, many public library systems, such as Alameda County and the City of Oakland now provide any resident of California with a free library card and various internet options for accessing “e books.” Thus, Piedmont’s current annual $350,000 payment does not appear to provide additional library access to Piedmont residents that they would not receive without the City’s annual payment.

At the June 21, 2010 City Council meeting, the Council confirmed that the City’s 10-year contract for Oakland Public Library services expired in 2008 and that currently, no contract exists. The question of whether residents are receiving any expanded access or services for the $350,000 payment was also raised. In prior years, the Oakland Library provided visits with their Book Mobile in Piedmont. This service was discontinued. The book return box adjacent to the mailboxes at the corner of Highland Avenue and Highland Way is still in use. After review, the Council voted to pay $350,471 for “library services” for the fiscal year 2009-2010 without a contract and, additionally, to allocate $350,471 as a line item in the 2010-11 budget. The Council also requested staff to prepare a report on the City’s options for library services.

The City of Piedmont now has an opportunity to consider how library service funds of up to $350,000 can be best utilized. Should they be put toward other needs, such as resolving the City’s expected $200,000 deficit for 2010-11? Should they go toward expanding library-related services available to residents? How can library access be enhanced most effectively? Are new internet-related options available? A staff report and discussion of options is expected this fall.

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