We are glad to see the coverage that the Bakersfield Californian gave to our visit there a few days back. EveryLibrary is in a unique position to be ‘on the ground’ with library stakeholders, staff, and leadership early in the process of considering how to best fund their library. The revenue situation for the Kern County Library is pretty dire. We’re in the mix to help provide assistance to the community engagement process as well as to anticipate a good conversation around the county about what proper funding for staff, collections, programs, services, and facilities look like.
Because the Californian has had some changes to the CMS, we’re re-quoting the article below at lenght. It now lives at http://www.bakersfield.com/News/2015/05/18/Impartial-survey-first-step-to-saving-libraries-group-tells-advocates.html rather than at a link we published and retweeted previously.
EveryLibrary, a nonprofit group dedicated to running library tax campaigns, visited Bakersfield Wednesday to talk about the future of libraries in Kern County.
They left library officials and library supporters with the clear understanding that a quality, impartial survey of the Kern County Library system’s needs is the first step to figuring out how to meet those needs.
The Kern County Administrative Office, at the direction of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, is already talking about how to do that survey.
Jason Wiebe, administrative analyst in the County Administrative Office, said he met with EveryLibrary representatives to learn more about what they do.
He said the CAO’s office is meeting with library staff next week to get input on the process and how it goes from here.
Then, in June, staff will bring supervisors some ideas for how to proceed forward on the library issue.
One of those options will certainly be hiring a professional survey group to conduct a community investigation into what people want from libraries — a group that can produce scientific, solid survey results.
Discussion of the future of libraries was triggered by a proposal, brought before the board, to privatize the management and operations of the 24-branch system.
That option, which drew heated opposition from library fans and supporters, is still on the table.
But supervisors have sought a larger discussion about the future of Kern’s libraries.
The fact the supervisors and the community want to have that conversation is a very important reality, said John Chrastka of EveryLibrary, the donor-funded group that would help local leaders and campaign supporters run a tax campaign for free.
If the community decides putting a tax measure before voters is the right move, he said, “We would be very happy to come back and help.”
Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr said Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney, also of EveryLibrary, confirmed that Kern County is moving in the right direction.
Kerr said the California State Librarian recommended that Kern contact EveryLibrary.
“They’re really invaluable,” she said after meeting with the pair. “They know what areas we want to explore.”
She said Chrastka and Sweeney confirm the county’s path is the right one. But they had additional insight into how a tax measure should develop.
Chrastka said the community has to determine the current state of library services here and decide together what they want a 21st Century library in Kern County to look like.
Then they have to put dollar figure on the difference between the libraries Kern has and the libraries it deserves, he said.
“We really want to find out what people want and what they’re willing to do,” Kerr said. “What’s next is staff meetings and the survey. We’re trying to find out what to do with our libraries. We’re OK with taking our time and doing it right.”
Miranda Lomeli-O’Reilly, co-founder of anti-privatization group Advocates for Library Enhancement, also met with EveryLibrary.
“I was impressed that a national organization is coming to Kern County. It shows the importance of this issue,” she said.
Her organization had discussed launching a petition process that would put a library tax measure on the ballot.
But she said that idea is on the back burner at this point and her group is supportive of a fair survey process conducted by an outside organization, with input from library staff.
“We want to keep our government honest and keep the Board of Supervisors open to other ideas than privatization,” she said.