The Ventura County Board of Supervisors accepted $136,000 in grants and private gifts Tuesday to expand services at public libraries in Simi Valley, Oak Park, Ventura and Meiners Oaks.
Library officials called the donations a much-needed boost but warned that the public libraries should not become too dependent on outside sources for funding.
The gifts, which were far in excess of a typical year's donations, were motivated by drastic cuts in this year's library budget, said Dixie Adeniran, the county's library agency director.
"It's necessary to accept this money with very open eyes," Adeniran said. "We are certainly seeing the importance of private fund raising. But I personally believe that the fundamental support still needs to come from public funds."
About one-third of the money received was raised in campaigns to extend library hours in Meiners Oaks, Oak Park and at the Avenue Library in Ventura.
The rest of the money comes from federal grants that will be used to expand services at the Simi Valley Public Library.
In Ventura, a group called Preserve the Avenue Library was formed last year when the county announced plans to close the facility on North Ventura Avenue. The group raised about $80,000 last year, enough to keep the Avenue Library open until July, 1996.
"When we went into this, we weren't thinking about the politics," said Gary Tuttle, a Ventura city councilman who headed the fund-raising group. "We just wanted to keep the doors open."
In addition to keeping it open, the group raised enough money to have the library stay open an extra three hours one morning a week. The new schedule will take effect in January.
However, Tuttle said he did not expect to raise more money for the library.
"Our effort sends the message that keeping these libraries open is a top priority," he said. "I don't think there can be a community effort every time there are cuts. That was a lot to ask of this group."
Supervisor Vicky Howard said she hoped the financial picture in the county would improve, but that the library system still needs to find ways to cut costs.
Howard said she has met with other library officials and city leaders to come up with ways to cut costs.
"We have a long list of ideas," she said. "We just need to get creative."
Among those ideas is an automated check-out service, which will be paid for by one of the grants approved for Simi Valley on Tuesday.
Two of the devices, at a cost of $77,000, will allow people to check out books in much the same way they receive cash from a bank's automated teller machine, Adeniran said.
Although the machines are not intended to replace librarians, Adeniran said they could reduce the need for any additional hiring.
Simi Valley's library also received an $8,600 grant to expand its book collection, Adeniran said. The money will be used to purchase books relating to employment advice and job hunting.
In Meiners Oaks and Oak Park, the new library schedules will begin Dec. 6. Those libraries will be open one extra morning a week to correspond with children's story time.
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