Students Spared from $80 Library Card for Non-Residents

Students exempt from new rule, while non-Milpitas residents will be asked to pay $80 a year for a library card starting July 1.

Pay $80 a year for a library card?  and its counterparts in the county library system will ask patrons living outside their cities to do just that starting July 1. With one exception.

On Thursday, the Joint Powers Authority Board, in response to public outcry, voted unanimously to exempt students who attend schools whose districts overlap with the boundaries of the Santa Clara County Library District.

"I am pleased to help the students in these economic times," wrote Councilwoman Debbie Giordano, the Milpitas representative on the JPA, in an email. "The $80 fee charged is to offset those that are not in the district and using the library facilities."

About 47 percent of patrons who use the Milpitas Public Library don't live in the city, said Linda Arbaugh, community librarian. About a quarter reside in San Jose, and slightly more than a fifth are from Fremont.

The state reimburses the libraries for each item checked out by those patrons, but the money has dwindled to 15¢ per item, she said. 

"The real cost to us is more like $3," said Arbaugh.

By charging, the Santa Clara County Library system forgoes state reimbursement, while, at the same time, recovering an estimated $240,000 from 2 percent of the non-resident patrons. With the student exemptions, the revenue is estimated to go down to $208,000.

Students from preschool to the 12th grade will be eligible for a one-year limited use library card, good for five checked-out items and computer access. Students are required to provide proof of their student status and attend a school in a district that overlaps with the boundaries of the Santa Clara County Library District. Private school students are also eligible.

The theme of the "haves" and the "have nots" surfaced during the meeting on Thursday. San Jose residents who use the Campbell and Milpitas libraries stand to see their own library hours reduced to three days a week with impending city budget cuts. 

"I can't tell you how much my stomach turns," said Jason Baker, mayor of Campbell, who said he supported the idea that libraries ought to be open and free. "However, I can't go to my constituents and ask them to do it alone." Half of the patrons of the Campbell Library are from San Jose, he said.

The decision to charge is "against the principle of a public library," said Jean Mordo, a Los Altos Hills councilman who sits on the Joint Powers Authority Board. "It should be free. Period." 

Mordo said the Los Altos Library would look for a way to pay for the cards for non-Los Altos residents.

"Some kind of fee is reasonable, because they have their own library in their own district," said Dixie Lim, a Milpitas resident who visits the library with her daughters once or twice a week.

"You're free to use to use the library," she said, referring to the kids programs. "You just can't check anything out."

Suzan Fraticelli, a San Jose Berryessa resident, said she would consider paying $20 a year to use the Milpitas Public Library, but not $80. 

"I can understand the cost and stuff, but if I can go to one for free, that's what I would do," she said. "If I came here enough, maybe that would be worth it, but $80 is ridiculous."

LostKK June 09, 2011 at 12:00 AM
$80 is a deal at only $6.67 a month. Maybe some would prefer $10 a month or per usage.
libraryless June 10, 2011 at 07:33 AM
It is not the fee, I have donated much more per year to the library system. It is the fact that the fee is in place to discourage use of the library for people who live close by. Look at a map of the library district. More often it is the closest library. For example, Milpitas library is 5 minutes away, and it took me over half an hour to get to the closest library in Alameda county. As a matter of fact the library in San Jose across the distict will be closer. This is a sad sign when resources can't be shared. Maybe we should build toll booths as you enter each city.
Adelaide Chen June 10, 2011 at 06:14 PM
About 47 percent of folks who use the Milpitas library don't live in the city. I can't blame San Jose and Fremont residents for loving our library!
nikita February 20, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I think it is ridiculous to ask non resident patrons to pay $80. Especially when it all goes down to the property taxes and other taxes you pay as part of the Santa Clara county State tax. I see residents coming from all parts to the Berryessa library and even with shorter hours they are really have a amazing collection of both online and offline material. Shame on the people who created this discrimination within Milpitas. Perhaps next time we need to not patronize this city.


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