Thank you for your article on Ventura County's libraries on Aug. 28. It was the most logical and thought-provoking story on local public libraries that I have seen. Those of us who work in the county library have felt very frustrated in recent years. We are trained to give service to the public, and we are aware of the needs of our communities, but we currently lack sufficient tools.
Public library service is a composite of many parts. Excellent service requires convenient and extensive operating hours. All service requires a safe, maintained building. Productive service requires a trained, dedicated and experienced staff to circulate books, help people find information and recreational material, and interact with kids in story times. Effective service requires sufficient informational and recreational materials that are regularly updated and augmented.
Practical service requires a central support staff to maintain library buildings, acquire and train new staff and volunteers, maintain the library's automated circulation system and other electronic equipment, select, purchase, process and transport materials to all libraries and integrate the service of individual libraries into an efficient, cooperative whole. All are necessary components. Each component has its own costs.
As funding decreased for the county library in the past few years, administrators made cuts in areas with the least public service impact, and actively sought more volunteers. Last year's deep financial cuts, however, reduced each component to little more than a skeleton holding together the framework of a public library system. Only the financial help of some cities and some other non-county entities has mitigated the effect on some communities.
Public libraries cannot exist to provide public benefit without public support and funding.
\o7 Ruth Hartman is adult services manager for the Ventura County Library.