Monday, January 4, 2010

Annually 2M+ visitors come through the doors of the eight libraries that make up Solano County Library

Solano County libraries grateful for tax
By Reporter Staff/
Posted: 01/04/2010 01:01:20 AM PST

Solano County Library officials will mark the 11th year of a sales tax they say has kept their doors open through tough times, with a special display.

Every year more than two million visitors come through the doors of the eight libraries that make up Solano County Library, officials noted in a press release.

"The success of Solano's libraries and their role as 'educational infrastructure' is due, in part, to an eighth of a penny sales tax devoted exclusively to the county's libraries," the press release noted.

"Measure B" as it was dubbed when it was passed by a more than 68 percent majority in 1998, will expire in 2014 unless it is renewed. When the sales tax proposal was put on the ballot, library leaders promised more hours, more programs, and more books and other materials.

Every year the library's success in making good on that promise is celebrated with the motto, "Promises Made, Promises Kept." This year branches will mark the anniversary today with displays and photographs.

"Census figures tell us that many people who live in Solano County now weren't here in 1998. They don't know how desperate things were before the eighth of a penny sales tax began. It saved us," said Cara Swartz, the library system's deputy director for public services.

Like many other library systems in the state, Solano had been on a downward spiral for a number of years, slashing budgets for books and materials and cutting hours, officials noted. The steady decline
was the result of the state shifting local property tax dollars, the library's main source of funding, away from local government. All library branches were closed on Fridays, only two were open on Sundays and on many days, library branches did not open until noon or later. "It was confusing and frustrating to remember at what time the library opened in any given city on any given day," the library press release notes. "The budget for books and other materials was shrinking and further cuts were inevitable."

Since the sales tax, however, officials said the local library system has:

* Increased the hours at all of the branches, with 94 percent more hours. Five of eight libraries are open seven days a week.

* Increased book, best seller, DVD and music purchases, from $432,000 to over $2.2 million.

* Tripled programs for children.

The steady funding was used to open new buildings like the Vacaville Public Library-Town Square; the Fairfield Cordelia Library; and the first joint public school library in Solano, the Suisun City Library. In addition, all five of the other branches have been updated, many with meeting rooms and computer centers.

For those who prefer to use the library from home, the library call center and Web site act as a "virtual library," with reference help, online holds, e-books, tutors and resume help, just a call or keystroke away.

"As more and more people are turning to the library for help in tough times and as the downturn in the economy has affected the library's sales tax and property tax revenues, we look for ways to work smarter and make dollars stretch further," said Swartz. "We work to honor the confidence the community showed back in 1998 when they passed Measure B."