I was informed that last Thursday, the Santa Clara County Library JPA voted to eliminate the $80/year fee they’ve been charging non-residents for use of the Santa Clara County Library System. Residents of non-participating cities, including San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto, will no longer have to pay this fee before being able to check out materials from the County system. This change will be effective July 1, 2015 at the start of the new budget year.
This is a big deal for Sunnyvale, unfortunately. Our inadequate facilities and smallest per-capita collection have caused Sunnyvale to operate as something of the deadbeat of the county’s various library systems. A whole lot of our residents go to other systems’ libraries for their library services, with the top destinations being the Santa Clara City Library, the San Jose Martin Luther King library, and the County’s Cupertino Library. At the same time, Sunnyvale’s poor facilities discourage non-residents from reciprocating and using our library. The annual fee that the county adopted drove a lot of Sunnyvale residents away from using library services. Its elimination is a good thing for those residents.
It’s also just a nice thing from a philosophical point of view. The various library systems throughout the state largely allow non-residents to use their facilities for free, turning all of the California libraries into part of one giant mega-system of library services. Any time a system starts excluding or penalizing non-residents, it’s viewed with a little bit of hostility from the systems that continue to provide free access. So there’s been a bit of friction between the county and various city libraries, and that will hopefully go away now. I’m told that the fact that none of us other systems reciprocated with this fee was a big factor in the decision to eliminate the fee.