The Sonoma County Library has been studied for more than a year by a committee investigating the rules under which it operates. The committee has come up with some decent recommendations, but is has run into trouble trying to develop an equitable power-sharing formula. While the committee has been trying to fix the library, the library itself has gone a long way toward solving its problems.
Moreover, the rules that the library operates under have been shown to be pretty good. It is time for the joint powers review committee to admit that and stop trying to fix something that is not broken.
The Sonoma County Library is governed by a very good piece of government called the joint powers agreement. Most counties provide library service through both city libraries and county libraries. Libraries get most of their income from property taxes. Cities have more per-capita property tax base and better funded libraries while the county usually has to provide library service with less funds.
In Sonoma Count,y between the 1950s and '70s, all city libraries joined the Sonoma County Library system and formed a joint powers agency, with the founding principles of increased service and equity of service. Cities got more library service than they could otherwise afford, and they were freed from having to run a library. Every library in the county strives to offer high quality service and has to be open the same number of hours.
The Sonoma County Library did splendidly for 40 years, and then in 2008 the meltdown reduced property taxes. This forced an unpopular director to make an even more unpopular decision. Sandy Cooper closed the whole library system on Mondays, its busiest day of the week. She thought this was the best way for the library to live within its means. That decision angered a lot of people, and they went to their supervisors. The supervisors could not change the library's direction or its director directly. For this reason and several others, the committee formed to see if the joint powers agreement was the best way to run the library.