Benj Thomas: Closing the Coast Community Library


As a committed member of the County Library Advisory Board, I am writing to let you know of an agenda item coming before the Board of Supes on Tuesday October 19.

At 9:30 the Supes will hear a proposed action to terminate the county’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Coast Community Library and thereby untether the South Coast Library from the countywide system. I don’t know how the vote will go.

While many south coast library supporters will attend the meeting, I think that inland support could be crucial in carrying the day. What may be a divide and conquer approach to the evisceration of the Library system will work only if the rest of the county remains silent.

And here is the text of the ASR:

DATE: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TO: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors

FROM: Melanie Lightbody, County Librarian

RE: Coast Community Library MOU and county operations

BACKGROUND: The County has a Memorandum of Understanding with Friends of the Coast Community Library which provides for 32 hours of regular staffing to the Coast Library and payment of certain facilities and book delivery costs.

The Friends of the Coast Community Library currently own the building and property and much of the book collection and equipment. The Library District only operates the library portion. With the resignation of the current Library Associate the Library District does not have enough staffing to continue to meet the agreements of the MOU without hiring another permanent employee. The Library District is also facing a shortfall of over $200,000 or more for the 11/12 fiscal year and needs to make changes to address this.

RECOMMENDED ALTERNATIVE: Turn operations of Coast Library back over to community and reinstate bookmobile stop effective December 30, 2011.

Recommended Alternative Details: Terminate MOU with Friends of the Coast Community Library and reinstate bookmobile stop:

• Downsizes the library’s budget commitments;

• Reduces size and scope of County operations, closer to maintaining the rest of library services within district’s means.

• Reduces services to south coast;

• Reduces support for vibrant, active, supportive volunteer community group

• Loss of matching funds (i.e. funds that the community has given to upkeep of building and operations).


Hire or promote and replace position. Continue with the MOU. Hire replacement for the Library Associate or whatever position might otherwise be left vacant. Supplement the district funds for 11/12 with general funds to cover these costs.


• Maintains current services for Coast, improving literacy and continuing to provide an essential community hub.


• Will require general fund contribution to continue services in FY 11/12;

• May require interim intermittent closures of other libraries while shifting personnel to fulfill MOU. Reduce support to Coast Library. Ask Friends and community members to bear more costs in operation of the library and reduce personnel and support. Possible reductions could include

• Reduce personnel to half‐time for a savings of $30,000 with some reduction in operating hours;

• Reduce all expenditures on facility costs of approximately $16,000;

• Reduce support for book‐sharing for a savings of $20,000. (Please note this is the service most valued by community members).


• Would allow for some services to remain for the community.


• May have liability and supervision issues;

• May cause concerns and possibly limitations with agreements with Sonoma and Lake Counties for resource‐sharing.

CONCLUSION. The Coast Library provides important services to the south coast and to the rest of Mendocino County libraries, but long‐term viability as a county operation is problematic without increased district funding.