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Public Libraries: Solano County Library Expands

Article List
Academic Libraries
      Disaster Recovery at Rio Hondo Community College
      Serials Holding Display Project at University of Southern California
      Staffing Strategies in Academic Libraries

AIM in the News
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SBVC Fall Convocation
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SCALL Fall Meeting
      Linda McKell Awarded the Mark Baer Award

AIM Services
      AIM Outplacement Services

Job Search Tips
      Electronic Resume
      Frequently Asked Interview Questions
      Interviewing Tips & Techniques
      Interviewing: From Both Sides of the Table
      Networking Quickies
      Questions to Ask the Interviewer
      Resume Writing Tips
      Retooling Your Career
      The Ten Commandments of Interviewing
      What else can I do with my Library Tech degree or certificate?
      What NOT to ask during an interview?
      Where to Find Library Jobs

Professional Development
      SCHOLARSHIP TO ATTEND the Annual General Meeting of the Society of California Ar

Public Libraries
      AIM's Project Team tackles San Francisco Public Library Project
      Creative Staffing at Torrance Public Library
      Fresno County Partners with AIM
      Solano County Library Expands

Special Libraries
      Consultants Provide Solutions
      Law Libraries - Staffing Strategies
      Microfilming History
      Non-Traditional Libraries
      The Law Librarian Employment Market

Solano County Library Expands Staff, Hours and Services

Public libraries throughout California have experienced lean times for over two decades. When Proposition 13 reduced property taxes for homeowners in the 70's, it also reduced funding for a number of state programs such as libraries. Many public libraries had to cut back hours and offer fewer programs, including those for children and young adults, as well as cut their budget for purchasing books and other library materials.

In 1992/93, Solano County Library had to make a number of changes in service due to lack of funding. One of these was to close all of their libraries on Fridays. No one was happy about that. Ann Cousineau, Director of Library Services, began efforts to identify methods to remedy the situation. There was a two-year period of behind the scenes work to test public opinion and gather backing that would enable them to propose a county sales tax increase to benefit all of the public libraries in the county. One obstacle was the fact that the state legislature and the governor needed to approve legislation allowing an 1/8th of a cent increase before any campaign could begin. The bill was passed in 1997, and a bond measure was placed before the county electorate in June 1998. With the help of an excellent campaign consultant, Mary Bourguignon, well placed publicity and a simple but direct message, the measure passed. It is a tribute to the hard work of Ann, Mary and others, working tirelessly for many years, that the bond election was so successful. The measure allowed the city and county libraries to receive additional funding to increase services. We all know how people feel about raising taxes--it is not usually well received. However, in Solano County's case, the bond issue passed with 68 percent of the vote, which gave a rousing thumbs-up to funding libraries!

Solano County Library received enough funds to add 15 professional staff. They promised the public new hours, more services to young adults and children, and additional materials for their collection to be added beginning January 4, 1999. The new funding would enable them to keep their 6 library locations open from a previous total of 203 hours a week to 342 hours a week, which is an increase of 68 percent. With the bond passing in June, there was only a six month period of time to hire new staff. Since time was an issue, recruiting new staff became the top priority.

There were a number of challenges, however, in the recruitment process. One obstacle was the limited availability of children's and young adult librarians. Because those positions had been affected by funding cuts in prior years, there are fewer librarians with this background. Another concern was competing with other cities and counties to hire professional staff. There are more positions open in public libraries than ever before, because many city and county libraries in California are experiencing an increase in funding.

To help with these challenges, Solano contracted with Advanced Information Management (AIM) to handle the recruitment of pro-fessional staff. Having been in the library staffing business for 15 years, AIM was well positioned for the task. AIM served as the central command control center for all inquiries, applications, interviews and candidate recommendations. In addition, AIM's private database of applicants yielded a number of candidates in a relatively short period of time. Working together with Ann Cousineau and Bonnie Katz, Assistant Director, applicants went through second interviews with Solano staff. By January 4, two-third's of the positions were in place, and the new hours commenced as planned. A special banner graced the doors of the library, "Promises Made, Promises Kept."

"We could never have filled the positions that quickly if we had not worked with AIM," commented Ann. "They really made the difference in being able to keep our promise to the public." Growing support for public libraries is a positive trend that seems to be continuing throughout California. Fresno County Public Library recently passed a similar bond measure. They will be expanding services throughout their 26 branches beginning this summer and adding over 200 new professional and paraprofessional staff. With the advent of the Internet compounding the scope of available information, more knowledgeable guidance is needed to make sense of it all. Librarians have always been the vanguard of access, organization and diversity of information in its various formats. As people become more aware of the role their public libraries play in providing a positive learning environment for their families, continued support for libraries should become the norm rather than the exception. Then, the main problem will be where are we going to find all of the librarians we need?

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