Mountain View November 5, 2014

County Libraries – Including Los Altos – Are Free Again

Published on Wednesday, 05 November 2014 00:05
Written by Los Altos Town Crier Staff – Town Crier Report

The Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board voted Thursday to eliminate the $80 annual library-card fee for users who do not live in the library district.

The vote was 8-3 in favor of the motion made by County Supervisor Joe Simitian, serving his second year on the JPA.

Until 2011, the state of California reimbursed public libraries for lending materials to residents of other library jurisdictions.

When the state announced plans to cut the $2.1 million the Santa Clara County Library District received to allow out-of-district residents to use its libraries, the JPA imposed an $80 annual fee for a library card for nonresidents to recover the loss.

With the JPA’s vote to eliminate the fee, effective July 1, residents of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, San Jose and Santa Clara are able to use any library in the county at no charge for the first time since 2011.

“No other library system in the county charges nonresidents for a library card,” Simitian said. “So residents of the county library district could borrow freely in other communities, but the residents of those communities got slapped with an $80 fee when they showed up in our district and asked for reciprocity.”

According to Simitian, the fee didn’t raise much money, cost a lot to administer and was a “nuisance” to members of the public who had to provide proof of residency.

“It just struck me as wrong on so many levels,” he said. “Our public libraries aren’t truly public when we charge an entrance fee. This $80 charge essentially became a ‘knowledge tax.’ It’s time we stopped charging folks for access.”

Simitian initially requested that the library district review the fee during the county budget process earlier this year. It was, he said, one of the first issues he heard about when he started holding sidewalk office hours in his district.

Elayne Dauber, former Los Altos Hills mayor and longtime member of the Los Altos Library Commission, said she was pleased with the district JPA Board’s action.

“I’m delighted,” she said. “We can be good neighbors again.”

Prior to the vote, to be eligible for a free Santa Clara County Library District card, users had to live or own property in the unincorporated area of Santa Clara County or in one of the following nine cities or towns: Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Campbell, Gilroy, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill or Saratoga.

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