REDDING, Calif. — The 10 libraries in rural Shasta County closed their doors, perhaps forever, on Friday, the first of the state's library systems to close as a result of the county funding crisis.
State Librarian Gary Strong said the 38-year-old Shasta system is the first but will not be the last California county to lose its libraries.
"The trend is that there is not enough money to support libraries at any level," he said on Thursday. "Yeah, we've got a trend on our hands. But it's the only damn library you've got, and as a community, you can't allow it to be thrown away. If that happens, you lose a lot more than the little library on the corner."
In Butte County, the Board of Supervisors has agreed to shut four and perhaps five libraries in its system as of Nov. 1.
Several years ago, Tehama County closed eight of 11 library branches, cutting staff from 20 to six. Shasta is the first county to shut down its entire system.
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors, which voted on Sept. 22 to close its library doors, blamed the lingering effects of the 1978 property-tax slashing initiative, Proposition 13, which limits county government revenue and has forced cutbacks in hundreds of county services throughout the state.
In Shasta County, a ballot measure in January, which would require a two-thirds majority to pass, would attach a fee of up to $24 on each parcel of property and would raise $5.5 million annually, enough money to operate the libraries.
About one third of the system's 100,000-item collection is on loan. Those items, mostly books, are valued at $1 million, according to Library Services Director John McCracken.
Seven of the system's staff of 53 will remain on the job to collect and store the loaned materials as they are returned. The rest of the employees have been laid off.
"I don't really understand too much about the financial problems," said Mary Mansur, a library user for 10 years. "But to close it, I'm really shocked. I'm at a loss."
Donna Anderson was in the main branch library in Redding on Thursday using reference books to study for her teaching credential exam.
"And now I don't have a library," she said. "It's just a killer period. How can they do this?"