Unconvinced

The reasons given for the recent decision to withdraw from the Black Gold Cooperative have not convinced me in any way that this is in the best interest of Santa Barbara’s library patrons.

The library has cited the following reasons for discontinuing the partnership with Black Gold:

(1) “Black Gold Administrative Council makes decisions based on majority rule and [our] proposals have been outvoted.”

Democracy does not always guarantee individual representatives get what they want, but majority rule seems far preferable to an authoritarian decision. If SBPL has not convinced the other libraries of the changes they think are needed, they should continue to develop their position, debate it, and advocate for it. Withdrawing from a democratic forum because they don’t like the outcome of a vote is not in anyone’s best interests.

(2) “Not renewing membership in Black Gold is in the best interests of Santa Barbara Public Library in terms of both costs and operational efficiency … [There are] high costs of being a member of Black Gold Library Cooperative.”

Even if every cent of the $150,000 SBPL spends on Black Gold was used to make new purchases based on patron requests, withdrawal from the cooperative still means patrons have access to far fewer titles and have to wait longer to receive materials (if the library even makes the purchases a patron requests).

(3) “[T]he improved statistical reporting of the new catalog will allow staff to pinpoint which collections, topics, and genres are of most interest locally.”

It seems antithetical to the intent of a library to provide a catalog of materials that caters only to “local interests.” Aren’t libraries meant to provide materials that help expand patrons’ perspectives and introduce them to a broader array of materials (than those they already know about)?

(4) “Though unfortunate, this change should not have a great impact on local SBPL patrons.”

The loss of access to materials will have a great impact on my family. We have borrowed more materials over the years from other libraries than our local branches.

The library has said nothing that convinces me that their decision is in the best interest of its patrons. I hope membership in the Black Gold Cooperative can be restored.

I am very grateful for the Santa Barbara Public Library and its staff, who have enriched our lives in this community in so many ways.

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