Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 26, 2005

Libraries: Best bargain in government

If you want to consider yourself a library supporter, you need to vote yes on both Measures A and B when the library assessment ballot arrives in your mailbox in early April.

Measure A, if passed by two-thirds of voters in areas served by the Santa Clara County Library system, will continue a $33.66 parcel tax, due to expire in June, for another ten years.

Measure B, if passed by two-thirds of voters, will add a $12 parcel tax for 10 years.

These measures are necessary because last year, the library narrowly missed reaching the two-thirds approval necessary to approve a new parcel tax to replace the one that’s about to end. The minority dictated to the majority that our invaluable libraries’ hours would be cut and that fewer materials could be purchased.

Why is it critical to vote yes on both measures? Because Measure A doesn’t even fund the status quo.

If Measure A alone passes, it means the library will not have had an increase in its major funding source for more than a decade. In the meantime, the state has grabbed funds earmarked for libraries while the facilities’ expenses have increased.

If Measure A fails, expect layoffs, drastic slashes in service and material purchases that make last fall’s reductions look like paper cuts.

Here we are in wealthy, technologically advanced Silicon Valley, yet our county library system can’t even stay open 40 hours a week. It’s shameful.

The first time you have to buy books for your child’s research project that you could have borrowed from the library for free had they been open, you’ll have covered the cost of Measure A and Measure B.

But think outside your own home; consider your community. Think of those who struggle to make ends meet in the Bay Area, with its sky-high cost of living. Many people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are feeling squeezed from both sides, because despite the economic downturn that has cost many people their jobs, the real estate market has remained inexplicably strong, increasing housing costs. Add to that the pressure from ever-higher gas prices, which makes getting to jobs for those lucky enough to have them even more expensive and causes prices to rise across the economy.

The economic squeeze means that those living on the edge of solvency can’t afford luxuries like books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs and Internet access. They count on the library to fill the gap. They borrow movies for free, avoiding the Blockbuster’s rental fees, and books that they cannot afford to purchase. They use the libraries’ computers to find important information on the web, because a computer and Internet access are unaffordable.

The library provides invaluable services to those members of our community who are homebound and for the blind and hearing impaired. Our library system has been honored twice in recent years as the best public library in the nation.

Even if you never darken the door of a Santa Clara County library (and you’re certainly shortchanging yourself if that’s the case), think of those who depend on its many services.

Think about the $45.66 a year you’ll be spending if Measures A and B pass, and compare it to the cost of a movie tickets, sodas and popcorn, or dinner with friends, or a couple of best sellers, or a tank of gas.

Think about your library system, ponder the wide range of services it provides, and realize that it’s got to be the best bargain in government.

Finally, think about which legacy you’d prefer to leave. You can join the side of Mark Zappa, a local member of the Santa Clara Valley Taxpayers Association, who is already vocal in his opposition to the ballot measures. That side, if it succeeds, will leave a legacy of locked library doors.

Or, you can join library supporters by voting yes on Measures A and B. Library supporters, if they are successful, will leave a legacy of increased opportunity for literacy, for instilling a love of reading, for helping neighbors who struggle with poverty or disability.

Library supporters, sadly, are the underdogs. As County Librarian Melinda Cervantes said recently, library supporters need two yes votes for every no vote for Measures A and B to succeed.

But I’m confident that those who want to leave a negative library legacy are vastly outnumbered by those who want to leave a positive legacy.

If you support your local library, show it by voting yes on Measures A and B.



  1. […] issue ignores all the good that libraries provide our communities. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Libraries are the best bargain in […]

  2. […] Here’s an example: I’m a passionate library supporter. I’m a co-founder and vice-president of the Morgan Hill Library Foundation, which raises funds for the long-term needs of the Morgan Hill Library. (MHLF holds Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest each year, and, pardon the shameless plug, this year’s weekend of sudoku and crossword puzzle workshops and tournaments, featuring world-class experts and puzzles, is set for Jan. 29 and 30 at the Morgan Hill Library; see for more information). I’m a past president of and current volunteer for the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library, which raises funds for the immediate needs of the library. I’ve written columns extolling the virtues of libraries. I believe that libraries are the best bargain in government. […]

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