Huge shift in the future of Kern Libraries

After a year of speeches, rallies, community building and organizing, yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting was a make-or-break day for the Kern County Libraries. Although they have postponed the final vote until next week, it appears that at least three county supervisors are ready to allow a one-eighth cent sales tax on the ballot in June and postpone issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for a private entity to operate the library.

During public comment, many community members spoke. Christie Coons from the Advocates for Library Enhancement spoke at length about how no fire or sheriff’s department would be asked to “be creative and tighten their belts” when faced with low staffing and outdated equipment. Mandy Walters, another advocate from ALE, asked the board to hold the RFI. She told the supervisors that if LSSI had a record of success, “we’d be behind them with banners.”

Supervisor Maggard opened the board comments saying that he did not support the tax, but if people want to vote to tax themselves, they should be given that opportunity. He also said that it made no sense to pursue an RFI at the same time. Supervisor Perez echoed his thoughts and made the motion to support the ballot measure and postpone the RFI.

Supervisor Scrivner put the brakes on the motion by asking to see the polling on the issue first. This was a huge ask because Supervisor Gleason is in support of the libraries giving them 3 votes on the board. Even more difficult is that Supervisor Gleason is scheduled to be in Sacramento next week and March 8 is the last day supervisors can approve the motion before the deadline to get the tax measure on the ballot. If Gleason is absent, there is a very real possibility that the measure would fail in a tie vote.

Gleason made certain with staff that he would be able to participate remotely before he allowed the motion to postpone the vote to go forward.

Next week will be a critical and we need as many people as possible to come to the supervisors meeting to show support for a final push. If the tax measure does not go on the ballot next week, it is nearly certain that our libraries will be privatized.

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