Financially Pressed Shasta County Closes Its Libraries

United Press International

Shasta County on Friday became the first in California to be without a public library system, after a budget-cutting move.

John Kallenberg, president of the California Library Assn., said the shutdown recalled temporary closures imposed elsewhere immediately after the passage of the Proposition 13 property tax cut in 1978.

“In these days, Shasta County is the first to have to take drastic action as the result of the fiscal crisis in California’s rural counties,” he said Friday.


50,000 in Circulation

Librarians said readers checked out more than 1,000 books in the final minutes before the doors closed Thursday. As many as 50,000 volumes from the 10 branches were still in circulation.

Beth Heath of Redding checked out a stack of mystery novels.

“I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an outrage,” she said of the closing. “Even during the Depression, we always had a library.”

County supervisors decided in September to close the 82-year-old library system and Shasta General Hospital to overcome a $2.6-million shortfall in the 1986-87 budget.

The shutdown could be reversed by a $24 per parcel tax increase, but prospects for passage with the required two-thirds majority appear bleak.

A similar measure was defeated in Tehama County two years ago when only 31% of the voters endorsed the new tax. Tehama County, meanwhile, has had its own library system reduced from 11 branches to three, Tehama County Supervisor Jim Hoffman said.

Special Elections Fail

California Library Assn. officials said special elections to bolster libraries also failed last year in Fresno and Stanislaus counties. Butte County will lose all its libraries except the one in the county seat at Oroville on Nov. 1 unless Chico and other cities provide matching funds.


“Counties are trying to work through legislation in Sacramento to improve their situation, but there is a large number of counties where discretionary programs are being cut back or closed,” Kallenberg said.

“The state and federal governments mandate certain programs and yet don’t provide sufficient resources to meet all of those needs. So-called discretionary programs, like libraries, get leftovers.”