Taking the first and long-awaited step toward improving the county's embattled library system, the director of library services issued a detailed report Thursday aimed at restructuring staffing and significantly increasing hours.
The report, issued by Dixie Adeniran, Ventura County library services director, is a response to a December study by Providence Associates, a Texas consulting firm that described the county library system as "woefully inadequate."
Adeniran's report stops short of addressing additional funding sources for the beleaguered library system. State funds for the libraries have dropped from $10 million to $4 million in recent years.
In addition, other services, including the homework help center, summer reading program, adult literacy, and the select depository for federal and state documents will be cut under the restructuring proposals.
The $48,000 Providence study, commissioned by the Board of Supervisors, proposed a restructuring of the entire system and a one-eighth of a cent sales tax increase that would bring in $9 million for the county's libraries.
But the 140-page study was criticized by some county leaders for a lack of clarity on implementing the changes and also raised doubts about taxpayers' willingness to pay for library improvements.
Adeniran's 27-page report proposes to reassign staff and place more people at the local library level, particularly at the larger libraries.
Adeniran recommends that libraries like Camarillo, Simi Valley and Ventura remain open 47 hours per week, rather than the 55 hours suggested by the Providence report. Those libraries are now open 36 hours a week, with an average of 10 to 12 staff people working.
Adeniran wants an average of 12.5 staff workers for those libraries, compared with nine in the Providence report.
The medium-sized libraries, such as Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai and Prueter, would be open 39 hours a week, with about five employees, compared with the present 24 hours, with about three employees. Smaller libraries like Meiners Oaks, Oak Park and Oak View would be open 28 hours a week with about two employees, compared with the current 16 hours a week and one employee.
"This is sort of phase one," Adeniran said. "A simple reallocation of the staffing can produce a schedule of longer hours in the library, but it does not resolve the fundamental question of the ability to perform library service to a level that is highly desirable. As Providence pointed out, additional money is needed."
Library supporters voiced approval of Adeniran's report, calling it the beginning of a long process toward improving the library system.
"We haven't done anything to solve the basic problem, which is money," said George Berg, spokesman for the group Save Our Libraries. "But I think this is a real good beginning to provide the most service with the money that we have."
Others said Adeniran's report was long overdue.
"Why did we have to suffer through three years of horrible service? Did we have to spend money on this study for this to happen?" Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton said. "It is a major step. There are some major questions as to where do we go from here."
Adeniran's report will now go to an implementation committee, which includes Supervisors Kathy Long and Frank Schillo, Stratton and other local city officials countywide, and community leaders. Committee members hope to meet by the end of January, when they will review Adeniran's recommendations and move forward with a plan.