Brett Lear, Director of the  Sonoma County Library System gave an overview of the range of services provided to county residents
Brett Lear, Director of the Sonoma County Library, was introduced by program chairman Philippe Hobson. He is here today to make a presentation on the services provided by the library, how it is organized, and its ongoing needs.
Both Brett and his wife are librarians. They met in a bookstore in Guadalajara Mexico. They moved to Portland following that. He has worked as a librarian in Portland, New York City, and Martin County, Florida. He has been the Director of the Sonoma County Libraries for approximately one year.
The library system currently includes 13 libraries scattered throughout the county. There is a staff of approximately 140 people and a budget of approximately $15 million per year. The libraries are governed by a Joint Powers Authority which is made up of members from representative communities and such is not a county department although it does receive funding from the County. With the change from a county department to a Joint Powers Authority, the board increased appreciably in size.
In addition to the 13 branches, the library now has a website that has been completely overhauled within the past year. It has a collection of e-books that can be checked out as library books and will stay on one's reading device for 2 weeks and then “evaporate”, unless they are renewed. There are activities for all ages at the library. One of their special programs, which is popular throughout the country is “MineCraft” the game in which participants build code for videogames.
The library has free Wi-Fi service in all of its facilities enabling people to use their personal computers in the libraries. Library system offers literacy instruction for people requiring improvement in their English skills. They are participants in a large database (Reference USA) that is useful. Current funding for the library comes from a $0.225 per thousand dollars of the assessed value of property owners. Despite this money, the budget was cut in the recession and there are still hours of  branch closures on Sundays and Mondays except for the main library in Santa Rosa. There are unfilled vacancies in staff positions in almost all of the libraries.
Sonoma County currently spends $33 per capita for libraries. This compares with $40-$66 in surrounding counties. Measure M, proposed to increase taxes sufficiently to allow all libraries to remain open 7 days a week. It failed with 64% of the vote, 66.7% was required.
Currently the JPA is working on a facilities master plan. They are questioning each community what libraries of the future should look like. They have installed an espresso book mobile machine for self-publishing books written by local residents. The Joint Powers Authority is holding meetings throughout the county to get input on what changes might be made. Currently the buildings are built by the cities and towns in which they're located with the space in them rented by the library. Is the feeling of the JPA that the building design should be dictated by community needs.
Several slides showing the points that he made are present in the photo album “Meeting 8 April 2015” on the ClubRunner Website.