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Borrowing books on Central, South Coasts could be harder with changes in library exchange

Some Central and South Coast library systems are leaving a regional book exchange program.
Aaron Burden
Some Central and South Coast library systems are leaving a regional book exchange program.

Two major library systems are leaving Black Gold Library Cooperative, which allows people to order books from other libraries in region.

There are some big rumblings over library service for parts of the Central and South Coasts.

Some major members of an exchange, which allows people to get materials from other libraries in the region, are leaving the cooperative.

The Black Gold Library Cooperative is a system which allows its members to share materials, to better serve it users.

"The essential premise was what they called a central catalog, which means that all the holding of all the members were basically available to the patrons of any of the libraries," said Ned Branch, Director of the Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula. It's a member of the Black Gold Community Library Cooperative.

"As we became computerized, any patron of any library could see the holdings of any other library in the system." said Branch.

Up until now, most libraries in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties have been members. In Ventura County, the Santa Paula Library is a member. Ventura County’s other libraries are part of a similar, but different cooperative called the Southern California Library Cooperative.

But, there are big changes in Black Gold. This week, the Santa Barbara Public Library, and the San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries announced they are withdrawing.

Officials with the libraries say the move is an effort to come up with more current, and efficient library related systems. They noted that Black Gold’s Administrative Council makes decisions based on majority rule, and efforts to make what they contend were needed changes, were outvoted.

Officials with both systems say they can better use the money they spend on the cooperative annually to improve their own catalogs and services to meet the needs of their customers.

Shelly Cone is a Public Information Officer with the City of Santa Barbara. She says by reallocating resources, they’ll be able to improve resources for Spanish-speaking library users, and expand the ability of everyone to find the library’s catalog online.

"We'll look at the data we are able to collect, and then pinpoint what those needs are to better serve our patrons." said Cone.

Santa Barbara Library officials say they can support the needs of its customers without having to rely on books from other Black Gold Library Cooperative jurisdictions.

The change is set to take place July 1. Black Gold has already moved to block new holds on materials from the Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo County systems to insure they are returned.

After the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County pullout, the system will still be left with a half dozen members. It includes the Goleta, Santa Ynez, and Buellton libraries, the Santa Maria Library system, Paso Robles, and Blanchard in Santa Paula.

Branch says in the case of the Santa Paula library, they are looking at options, but are leaning towards remaining with the current cooperative.

He notes that without the cooperative, sharing books between systems can mean packaging up and sending books by mail or UPS, a process he said costs about $15.00 a book between staff time, and shipping.

He said the future of the library cooperative may come down to dollars and cents. With the two largest systems leaving, there will overhead costs to be absorbed by the remaining libraries. At the same time, there will be savings.

Branch said because some vendors base their fees on population, and circulation numbers, those fees could be greatly reduced.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.