Sonoma County’s libraries are in the fourth year of their worst funding crisis ever. Like tens of thousands of youngsters, teens, and seniors, my two young sons used to make Monday our “library day.” But now every one of the 13 libraries in the county is closed Mondays for the first time in history. What does it say about our priorities, as parents, voters and neighbors if we are unable to sustain one of our community’s most cherished and vital public resources?
Closed Mondays and closed evenings are the result of a system-wide 25 percent cutback in hours, from 52 to 40 hours at most branches. During the 1970s, our library was open more than 70 hours per week. Despite ever increasing usage and demand for books, Internet access and multimedia materials, our libraries have been starved for funding.
Sonoma County now spends just $33 per capita for libraries, versus $95 in Marin County and $110 in San Francisco.
A few years ago, I started the countywide Restore Library Hours Campaign. Thousands of citizens signed our petitions, hundreds called and wrote their supervisors. They heard us, and this summer, they voted unanimously and placed Measure M, a transformative revenue measure, on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Measure M is a tiny 1/8 of 1 percent sales tax. This will cost just 12 cents for every $100 of taxable items, amounting to under 50 cents a month for a family like mine. Yet Measure M will bring $10 million annually to our beloved libraries, allowing them to reopen Mondays and evenings, while adding funds for children, teen and senior programs, improved collections and technology, and facility repairs.
The Press Democrat recently endorsed Measure M, stating, “Sonoma County voters can’t afford to miss this opportunity to support and upgrade its library system.”
I urge everyone to vote for Measure M—and to let friends know about it at schools, workplaces, senior homes, and gatherings. An end to this crisis is within reach, and with it, a bright future for our beloved libraries.
Jonathan Greenberg is a candidate for Sebastopol City Council and owner of Progressive Source Communications.