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HUNTINGTON BEACH : Library Fee Proposed for Non-Residents

At Central Library, shelves are empty, science books are outdated, and a bestseller might not be available to check out for weeks.

“The bottom line of a library is books,” Library Board President Wade Hawley said. “If you don’t have books to check out or to circulate, it’s really hard to be a quality library.”

The library’s book budget has been cut to $147,000 this year, a significant drop from $275,000 in 1989-90, Hawley said.

To counter the loss, Hawley said, library supporters came up with the proposal for a $20 library card fee that would be charged to non-residents.

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The fee would raise about $200,000 a year to buy new books, Library Director Ron Hayden said. Programs and use of materials at the library would still be available at no charge, he said.

“This is a very hard decision for all of us,” Hawley said. “The library board spent months arguing among themselves because some believe that a library, overall, should be free. But the reality of the situation is we cannot continue with the way things are going and that’s one of the reasons why we proposed the fee.”

Hawley said county libraries’ reduction in hours, combined with the recent addition of the children’s wing at Central Library, has triggered an influx of patrons using the city library. It is estimated that 40% of library patrons are non-residents.

Caryl M. Harvey, president of Friends of the Huntington Beach Library, said that residents are already paying for the library with their tax dollars and non-residents should also pay their fair share.

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City Council members and library board and support group members plan to meet Wednesday to work out a recommendation to the City Council on the use of revenue if the non-resident fee is adopted.

“I’m hoping for the best compromise in favor of the library,” Hawley said.


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