It is no secret that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Los Altos Library. In my mind, there is no service provided by our taxes that gives more value than the public library.
Nearly everyone is a recipient of library services, either personally or through members of the family. Children, seniors, mothers, grandparents, teens, nannies, retirees and the unemployed all take advantage of its availability.
On a hot day, the library is the cool place to go. To people with a few hours to spare, it is the alternative to a coffee shop. To babysitters, it is the best entertainment. It is one of the publicly provided services that people want to use (unlike police, fire, public health – which we want to have but hope not to use). I could go on, but let’s get to Measure A, an initiative that would renew the soon-to-expire 20-year-old Santa Clara County tax, scheduled for a special mail-in ballot that must be returned by 8 p.m. Aug. 27.
I am happy to support Measure A because I believe this year’s modest request – $33.66 per single-family home, approximately the price of one hardcover book – is a sign of the improving health of our library system. I am optimistic that when this Measure A renewal expires, we will not need to subsidize our library again.
The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 decimated California library funding. All agencies funded by property taxes found their incomes slashed two-thirds – cities, schools, libraries, fire districts, counties, etc. The state passed legislation to ease the impact that lasted until 1990, when the state found itself short on funds.
In 1995, the Santa Clara County Library District followed the lead of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills and asked voters to approve a $33-per-parcel annual tax. That first $33 tax provided more than 40 percent of the library district’s budget. Eighteen years later, the library again is asking for just $33.66, but it will be less than 20 percent of the budget.
That’s a small price to pay to ensure that Los Altos maintains its two top-notch libraries with the books and materials local residents need. Even better, I believe that with the passage of Measure A, the Los Altos Library will ride out the next 20 years in good financial health, and we will leave our children a quality system that will no longer need to be subsidized. I will happily vote for that.
Elayne Dauber is a longtime member of Friends of the Library of Los Altos and Community.