Library spared by county-city deal
By Jesse Phelps
The state bureaucrats cutting
funds to local libraries can read 'em and weep. The city and
the county came together Tuesday night to find a solution to
the state-created money problems facing the Ojai Library. And
they succeeded, if temporarily.
Proponents of keeping the library open seven days a week, with
its full complement of community services, came out in droves
to the council chambers. After hearing several impassioned pleas
and with an assurance that the county will contribute a similar
amount, City Council voted unanimously to release approximately
$27,000 to forestall a serious reduction in library hours and
the release of three, or possibly four, library employees.
Over the past several years, funding reductions have hobbled
disbursement to county libraries, a trend only exacerbated by
California's current budget crisis. Despite the cuts in support,
Ojai's library has remained open seven days week, for a total
of 55 hours, thanks in large part to a parcel tax voted in by
If not for the parcel tax, the library would currently be open
only 24 hours per week, a number that would have been reduced
to nine beginning Sept. 8 without some last-minute financial
magic Tuesday night.
With additional threats to funding from the state looming or
going into effect, Starrett Kreissman of Ventura County Library
Services asked the council members if they could help find a
The extra funding necessary to keep library services at their
current levels, said Kreissman, totals about $59,000. The council
pledged $27,000 - from a surplus from past parcel taxes totaling
nearly $60,000 - and asked that Kreissman do her best to match
from a county reserve fund. The county holding contains $80,000
specifically earmarked for Ojai.
Kreissman, who said she always looks forward to coming to Ojai
because the citizens care so much about their library, intimated
that she didn't think it would be a problem to come up with the
balance of the funds.
This is great news for the library and its corps of dedicated
patrons and friends. It means that an impending loss of 15 hours
per week, including the halting of Sunday service, is no more;
and it means keeping jobs.
Mayor Joe DeVito said he'd received several letters in support
of the library, including one from the owners of the Oaks at
Ojai hotel, located just across the street from the library.
They specifically mentioned the Sunday hours as particularly
valuable to their customers. Another, signed by 40 people, spoke
to the value of bilingual librarian Susan Dykstra.
Perhaps the night's biggest winners were Ojai's Latinos. Dykstra,
who runs the popular Amigos bilingual story hour, in which local
youngsters can get together and listen to stories or play with
reptiles, among other treats, was one of the employees due for
reassignment to another location.
Local resident Adan Lara, who helped set up the Amigos program
three years ago, said it would be a "big mistake" to
cut hours. But, more important, he said, is keeping Dykstra in
the fold. In eloquently broken English Lara said, "She always
is speaking Spanish with the families. If a family comes in and
asks for help, she is the one who goes and helps everybody. If
she will be not there, I don't know what's going to happen. If
nobody speaks Spanish with this family the first time, this family
will never go back."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news