Restoring Library Hours in Sonoma County

In 2011, following the economic crisis of 2008/09, Sonoma County library hours were cut by 25%. In addition to cutting back evening hours, all library branches were ordered closed on Mondays, going from being open six days per week to only five. This reduction of hours was even more pronounced when looking at historical operations. In 1981, Sonoma County libraries were open seventy hours a week. After the Monday and evening closures of 2011, they were open only forty hours per week.

On behalf of the Restore Library Hours Campaign, Progressive Source began organizing and educating the public around restoring library hours, and began lobbying the local government to do so. Unfortunately, despite starting a petition signed by more than a thousand local residents and organizing speakers at county supervisor, city council, and library board meetings, neither the county nor the library board were willing to do anything to restore cut hours.

In the spring of 2014, Progressive Source continued the campaign to reopen libraries. Now the goal was to solve the budget shortfall by funding libraries with a dedicated sales tax, and to convince the County Board of Supervisors to place this 1/8 of 1% sales tax revenue measure on the ballot. A new petition, signed by more than 1,100 names asked the Supervisors to place the tax on the ballot.

The campaign inspired hundreds of citizen emails or calls to the Supervisors.

As a result, in August, 2014, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place Measure M, a sales tax, on the ballot. It would have raised $10 million annually for ten years for the county library system. During the November, 2014 election, the Measure M ballot measure received 63.5% of the popular vote, falling short of the 66.67% threshold required for a sales tax measure.

Despite this setback, Progressive Source continued to work on a grassroots level to assist the Restore Library Hours Campaign to restore vital library hours to its community. In 2016, Progressive Source launched another petition, this one signed by more than 1,800 people. Again hundreds of people called and emailed their supervisors.

In November, 2016, the sales tax, now called Measure Y, was once again placed on the ballot. This time it passed, receiving more that two thirds of the total votes. Monday library hours were restored in 2017 and library hours have been maintained at the same level since, ensuring that this valuable resource is available to the community. The ⅛ of 1% sales tax provides Sonoma County libraries with $10 million dollars in annual funding, a more than 50% increase to their previous annual budget of $17 million.

Besides opening on Mondays and restoring staffing, measure Y funds have helped to open a badly needed new library branch in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa. In 2022 the sales tax continued to benefit the community with libraries opened another 10 hours per week. Libraries are a pillars of the community, used by people from all walks of life. Keeping them open and staffed in these days of reduced services is vital.

Library Funding Campaign

Shawna Baskin, middle, and her son Micah sign up for the Summer Reading program at the Sebastopol branch of the Sonoma County Library system last summer. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)