Jun 3 2011

Will Oakland Charge for Library Cards Like Santa Clara County?

Piedmont’s future library service relationship remains unsettled as the Oakland City Council considers drastic library reductions and the elimination of their Library Department. Even as Oakland’s library services shrink, the City has continued to demand increased library contributions from Piedmont and Emeryville.  Reports of Oakland’s demands have varied.  Reportedly, Oakland City Council member Libby Schaff proposes that Piedmont pay $497,722.22 and Emeryville pay $470,332.80  per year for Oakland library services. Piedmont City Administrator, Geoff Grote has previously reported an Oakland demand of $596,000.  The basis of the numbers has not been defined.  On a per capita basis, Piedmont’s population has diminished since the 2000 census, while Emeryville’s has increased.

Meanwhile, library systems throughout California are making tough decisions in light of anticipated State budget cuts to library funding.  Beginning July 1, 2011, the Santa Clara County Library (SCCL) District will charge an annual $80 card fee to non-residents of the SCCL District to use online services or borrow books and other materials.  (The SCCL joint powers authority district covers a network of nine Santa Clara County cities without their own city libraries, together with unincorporated areas of the County.)  It will affect 153,548 (43%) of their cardholders who are not in the SCCL District—primarily residents of cities with independent libraries and employees of businesses located in the SCCL District.  Residents of Los Gatos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San José, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale  will continue to have free access to their city libraries, but, although they are residents of Santa Clara County, they will have to pay $80 to purchase library access from the SCCL District library system. SCCL press release.

Since the SCCL District is rated as the best public library in California, non-residents of the District may choose to pay the annual fee to continue using the services.

As shown by the chart above, the Oakland Public Library ranked lower in Hennen’s 2010 American Public Library Ratings than other Bay Area Libraries.  This national survey ranked Oakland Public Library at the 48.9 percentile, compared to the 66-77 percentile for other Bay Area libraries, and the 98.9 percentile for SCCL.  Hennen’s 2010 ratings are based on collections, circulation, visits, reference librarians and other customer service data compiled in 2008 from more than 7,000 city libraries in the U.S. Read the complete Hennen’s Library Ratings.

Neither the City of Oakland nor Alameda County currently charge fees to non-resident cardholders.  Schaff’s proposal, however, could include other non-residents (62%), who make up the majority of cardholders (see chart below), in addition to Piedmont residents (1%).  While Piedmonters would be considered non-residents of the City of Oakland library system, they would be residents of the Alameda County Library system.   Piedmonters are within the Alameda County Library service area and pay property taxes which support the Alameda County library system.

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to consider a proposal to eliminate all but four of Oakland’s branch libraries on June  21 at 5:30 p.m.  In addition, whether or not 15 libraries are closed, a major reorganization of the Oakland Public Library is anticipated  in FY 2012-13, which will combine the Library Department with the departments of Parks & Recreation and Human Services, forming a new Life Enrichment Agency.  Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has not stated whether Measure Q (the Oakland parcel tax assessment for library service) could continue to be imposed on Oakland property owners and be used by the new combination agency, but a 2008 Legal Opinion by City Attorney John Russo suggests this option would be available.

Several library systems in the area currently provide free library cards and online access to any resident of the State.  These include the Contra Costa County, City of Oakland, and  San Francisco County Libraries.

See additional articles on Libraries.  





Leave a Comment