Group fights cuts at Montecito Library
By SARA BUSH NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
August 3, 2015 12:04 AM
Members of nonprofit Friends of the Montecito Library are fighting to keep the doors open after recent county budget cuts forced the library to decrease its hours by 25 percent.
The Montecito Library, a branch of the Santa Barbara County Public Library System, had been open Monday through Saturday, but is now closed both Sundays and Mondays, its operating hours reduced from 45 to 36 per week.
The nonprofit's board of directors recently approved a funding plan to prevent additional closures, said Patricia Saley, president of Friends of the Montecito Library.
Under the unanimous decision, the board agreed to focus its fundraising strategy on building the library's endowment, which is at $600,000.
"The investments are being divested of CDs as they mature and into a conservative portfolio of stocks and bonds," Ms. Saley said in a press release. "After the Friends of the Montecito Library meets its annual budgetary commitment with the county, remaining gifts will be used to boost the endowment.
"By moving to a more sustainable funding model, the Board hopes to stabilize the Library's annual funding sources. Once the endowment reaches a level where the distribution of interest in the investment will pay for additional operating hours, the Board will increase the funding that is given to the Library's budget."
Santa Barbara County provides a third of the Montecito Library's funding. A third comes from private donations, which are controlled by the county, and the rest comes from donations by Friends of the Montecito Library.
Unlike many other libraries within the Santa Barbara County Library system, the Montecito Library does not receive funding from a city because Montecito is unincorporated.
Without the private donations, the library would only be able to operate about 16 hours a week, according to the Friends of the Montecito Library website.
While the board had grappled with how to keep its doors open six days a week, it decided to take a more "long-term" approach.
"Instead of trying to keep the library open at 2014 levels, we are focusing on the long term and working to avoid future closures, which are potentially imminent in two years when the funds that the county is managing for us from previous bequests actually runs out," said Monique Littlejohn, a member of the nonprofit's board of directors.
Statistics show the library had about 50,000 visits over the 2013-2014 fiscal year and checked out 117,465 items.
Members of Friends of the Montecito Library believe the library provides a huge service to the community, saving visitors "hundreds of dollars per year by allowing them to borrow books rather than buy them," and providing Wi-Fi access to visitors "for homework, internet research, or employment searches."
Santa Barbara County's funding of libraries is among the lowest in the state - about $7.80 for each resident within the Montecito Library Service area, according to statistics from Friends of the Montecito Library.
The nonprofit pays for the
majority of the library's new books, audio books and DVDs, supports public programs and events and pays for interior updates and furniture, according to its website.
For more information about the Montecito Library, or to make a donation to Friends of the Montecito Library, go to http://montecitolibraryfriends.org.