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Sacramento Public Library Authority

    Subject of Investigation

All public libraries within the City of Sacramento and county (except Folsom) were functionally, but not financially, consolidated in 1993 by a Joint Powers Agreement. This combined system technically is known as the Sacramento Public Library Authority but usually is referred to as the city-county library system. The governing board consists of the five county supervisors and four of the Sacramento City Council members. The Sacramento City part of the system includes the Central Library and eight branch libraries. The county part includes 15 branch libraries in the unincorporated areas and in the other cities. There is no county central library; thus the city Central Library is the flagship for all 23 branch libraries.

    The focus of this report is on the funding and number of open hours of all the libraries within the system.

    Reason for Investigation

    This investigation was initiated because of an editorial in the local paper in which the author bemoaned the meager funding for the Central Library and also the paucity of its open hours - only 37 per week. (On February 3, 2000 the hours were extended to 48.)

    The editorial was a wake-up call for Sacramento to make the Central Library something more than a "pretty face." The suggestion offered on how to increase funding for Central Library was "agitating for a larger contribution from the City Council." No mention was made of the status of either the city or county branch libraries, all of which are an integral part of the library system.


    Information was obtained from extensive discussions with the city-county library administrative staff, with the supervising librarian at the Central Library, and also with a member of the Board of Supervisors.

    Data were obtained from Consultant Kathryn Page's report to the Central Library and from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments Regional Directory.


    Even though the city and county libraries are consolidated functionally their core funding is separate; e.g., the city pays for the city libraries and the county for the county libraries.

    Core funds for library system budget by city and county from 1996 - 97

    Funds contributed to the library by the city are derived from a property tax assessment (Measure P) passed by city voters in 1996. However, Measure P specifically excluded use of any of this money for the Central Library, which is supported from City general funds, as is a one million dollar debt service on the building. Money contributed by the county to the library budget comes from a county library fund, the amount of which is a proportion of property taxes. The county library fund can be augmented by the Board of Supervisors from the general fund.
    In 1996 county voters narrowly turned down a measure similar to Sacramento City's Measure P. However, it required two-thirds voter approval in contrast to fifty percent required for Measure P. In November 2000 affected citizens may have the opportunity to vote on a parcel tax to increase the funding for county branch libraries.

    Other sources of library revenue are state money via the Public Library Fund Grants - the source from which the recent increase in Central Library hours is being funded. Additional sources include grants from non-profit private organizations, as well as income from the Tsakopoulos Galleria.

    Open Hours

    Main Libraries

    Among many measures of library funding adequacy is the number of open hours per week. A generally accepted minimum standard for metropolitan libraries is 60 open hours per week. Even though the Central Library now is open 48 hours, it remains well below the standard of 60 hours and well behind main libraries in most of the major cities in California.

    Typical nearby cities with 60 or more open hours per week are Bakersfield, Stockton, San Francisco, San Jose, Burlingame, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Monterey. In fact, even some of the main libraries in smaller communities have 60 or more open hours per week. Some examples are Roseville (68 hours), Porterville (65 hours), and Madera County library (80 hours).

    Branch Libraries

    Neither the Page Report nor the local newspaper editorial mentioned the branch libraries. Because they are an integral part of the city-county library system and are particularly valuable to students and to those residents distant from the Central Library, the Grand Jury deemed it important to include them. The Grand Jury wanted to determine how the open hours of Sacramento County branch libraries compared to the open hours of branch libraries in other counties. It chose the branch library systems in the five counties considered part of the greater Sacramento area: Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, Yuba and Sutter counties.

    The administrative staff and librarians of the Sacramento Public Library Authority, in cooperation with community focus groups, have developed a 20-year master plan for the entire Sacramento library system. The plan includes all aspects of library use by all age groups, e.g., from how to provide specific services for kindergarten age groups up to and including service for seniors. The concepts expressed in the report are broad and exciting. When implemented they will add immeasurably to the use and enjoyment of the libraries.

    The tables below list the open hours per week of both the city and county branch libraries.

    Open hours of the eight city branch libraries:


    Open hours of the 15 county branch libraries:

  • The Grand Jury wanted to determine how the open hours per week of county branch libraries compared to the open hours of branch libraries in other counties. It chose the branch library systems in the five counties considered part of the greater Sacramento area, i.e. Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, Yuba and Sutter.


      · Sacramento Central Library is open the least number of hours among main libraries of all California cities of comparable size and of many cities of lesser size.

      · Among the five counties included in the greater Sacramento area, four have main libraries open more hours than Sacramento Central Library and one (Sutter County) is open only one hour less.

      ·The E.K. McClatchy city library branch has a location problem because of the changing demography of the area. Excluding E.K. McClatchy, the shortest number of hours a city branch is open (34) is the same as the longest number of hours any county branch (Carmichael) is open. Clearly county branch libraries are more adversely affected by funding deficiencies than city branches.

      · County branch libraries in counties of the greater Sacramento area are open fewer hours than their main libraries but the open hours clearly are gauged by the population served; for example, Rocklin and Tahoe City branches in Placer County and Cameron Park and South Tahoe branches in El Dorado County. This is not true within Sacramento County. Examples: the few open hours of libraries in Carmichael and Elk Grove, both of which have populations in excess of 70,000.

      · Funding of libraries is expensive. The increase of 11 open hours from 37 to 48 per week at the Central library adds $425,188 annually to its operating costs. At the present level of funding, the Sacramento city-county library system does not meet the needs of this area. Until there is a substantial increase of funds into the Sacramento Public Library Authority, the elegantly sophisticated Central Library will remain just a "pretty face" and the branch libraries retain their current limited open hours.


    1. That all resources available to the Sacramento Public Library Authority be mobilized to encourage county voters to support the parcel tax that will appear on the November 2000 ballot.

2. That the Sacramento Public Library Authority Master Plan for 2000-2020 be reprinted and made available to the public through the branch libraries.

    Response Required

    The Penal Code requires that responses to all of the recommendations contained in this Report be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Sacramento Superior Court by September 30, 2000, from:

      · Sacramento County Public Library Authority

1999/2000 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 2000

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