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May 10, 2001

Report: Libraries Popular,
But Funding Doesn't Follow

Full Report (pdf)

The last two decades have brought serious declines in funding and service levels for California libraries, according to a new report from the California Institute for County Government. The institute is affiliated with the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Despite the economic good fortune of the 1990s, the report says, California's support for libraries remains below that of the 1970s. In fact, the state's library service now ranks among the lowest in the nation.

For example, in 1997, the most recent year for which data is available, the report says California libraries as a whole ranked 49th in the nation in staffing. That's down from 34th in 1990. In the same years, the state's libraries fell from 30th to 41st in circulation per capita.

But the state rankings don't tell the whole story. Local governments fund libraries, and the report says county and special district libraries have been hit especially hard. Combined, these libraries now serve 52 percent of California residents with just 40 percent of overall library funding. Municipal libraries serve the remaining 48 percent of residents, and have 60 percent of overall funding.

The declines have occurred despite strong demand for library services from voters, according to the report. It lays the blame on economic factors, ballot propositions that constrain local government budgets and state budget actions.

The California Institute for County Government, which published the report, studies county policy and fiscal issues and offers consulting to county government. In addition to publishing occasional Perspectives and Research Briefs, the institute maintains extensive county statistical information, much of which is available on its website.

More information is available at, or by contacting the institute at (916) 324-0796 or

Full Report (pdf)


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