Words like “autocratic” and “high-handed” reflected the frustration felt among Goleta’s city councilmembers over the library in their town being managed by the City of Santa Barbara. Receiving without forewarning the news that Goleta’s retiring children’s librarian would not be replaced and that a money shortage would close the library on Mondays had been shocks that spurred into greater action the decade-long discussion in Goleta on breaking away from Santa Barbara’s library system.
Editor’s Note: Santa Barbara Library Director Jessica Cadiente clarified the decision not to hire a children’s librarian was Goleta’s. When the reserve was at $225,000, then-deputy city manager Kathleen Trepa asked her to hold off searching for a children’s librarian, whose salary would have halved the reserve fund.
Goleta staffers, councilmembers, and residents spent two hours at a Tuesday evening workshop discussing the financial implications for Goleta in terms of salaries — a good two-thirds of the library budget — memberships with library service providers, and the varying number of heads that could be counted under the county’s per capita payment. Finding out that Santa Barbara’s administration fee has added 9 percent to the amount paid for Goleta Library’s electricity bill did nothing to quell the council’s aggravation. Councilmember Michael Bennett stated that Santa Barbara wanted to recoup its administration fee in full now, and that the first “full recovery” percentage given by the city had been 34 percent, then moderated to 22 percent at a second meeting, with no explanation given for the change. Unanswered questions like that one was cited by several councilmembers as reasons to go it alone.
Goleta’s library must apply to the California State Library for membership and also wishes to remain in Black Gold, which distributes books in a tri-county region and provides data services for electronic books, movies, music, and other media. City Manager Michelle Greene explained that Black Gold’s executive director Maureen Theobald was concerned that Goleta explore all the financial implications of the decision and that its council was committed to spending general fund money every year to support the library.
Management Analyst Dana Grassi’s charts looked at general fund expenditures over the various per capita scenarios: amount per head paid by the county and the number of heads counted. They showed that management by Goleta would save money — mainly through not paying Santa Barbara’s administration fee, estimated to cost $234,000 for fiscal 2018-19. Goleta’s general fund payment for the library was estimated at $219,000. Were Goleta Library to stay with Santa Barbara, that would be above a half-million dollars within five years. Under Goleta management, absorbing costs into its own staff for such indirect expenses as attorneys, human resources, bill payments, and so on, the general fund amount stayed below $300,000. Grassi also showed a half-million-dollar reserve for Goleta Library.
Several participants brought up the consultant to be hired by Santa Barbara County to look at all the library issues. Some counseled that the answers were worth waiting for; others stated that since the report is expected next spring, its findings would be too late for Goleta’s purposes and not necessarily solve the city’s communication problems with Santa Barbara. “We’ll end up at the same place,” said Councilmember Roger Aceves. “Do we want to run and control our library? Or do we want to get an email that says we’re closed on Monday?”
Sending staff back to get the answers to more questions, the City Council will hear those answers and decide on what route to take at its evening meeting on August 15.