March 22, 2018

CA State Senator Proposes Constitutional Amendment for Library Funding

California State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced an amendment to the state constitution which would make it easier for local governments to raise funds for public libraries. The amendment would reduce the percentage of votes needed to pass such a measure from the two-thirds supermajority currently needed to 55 percent, though still more than a simple majority.

The amended threshold would be more in line with what is required in California to pass K-12 school bond measures. General purpose tax measures that may be used to fund general local services require only a simple majority vote to pass.

“Libraries …provide essential services to the state’s education system and to our communities,” said Wolk. “But while demand for library services is growing, many libraries are struggling to meet the needs of their users in light of ongoing state and local budget cuts,” Wolk continued. “We’ve seen major reductions in hours and even closings.”

“In the November elections, two California library parcel tax measures failed despite receiving substantial majorities, with more than 55 percent yes votes from their communities,” said Derek Wolfgram, President of the California Library Association, referring to a measure in Pomona, which received 60.5 percent of the vote, and one in Santa Barbara, which  received 57.6 percent, according to the California Local Government Finance Almanac. According to the Sacramento Bee, all five library parcel taxes failed on this November ballot.

“The proposed change to 55 percent would still require significant support from local voters,” Wolgram added. “The California Library Association strongly endorses this legislation.”

CLA also said in a statement that the association “worked closely with Senator Wolk’s staff to develop the language for the measure, and to provide historical information on the history of library funding in California.”

The move comes after California Governor Jerry Brown proposed a budget with zero state funding for libraries for the second year in a row, something California librarians worried would threaten the state’s principles of universal borrowing and equal access.

To reach the ballot, the constitutional amendment needs either a two-thirds supermajority in the state legislature, or petition signatures from enough registered voters to equal 8 percent of the total who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Once on the ballot, however, ironically the amendment would be easier to pass than a library tax: it needs only a simple majority.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.



  1. This is just par for the course for libraries of all types. Librarians because of budget shortfalls or technological inadequacies, the librarian and the library is being viewed as dispensable. If this trend continues, America would loose out on one of its most valued institutions. Since the inception and creation of libraries, people have come to depend on them providing the information that they are seeking. Even with today’s technology, the librarian is there to help decipher through vast amounts of information. When Carnegie gave millions of dollars back in the 1980’s to build libraries across America, it was to inform a citizenry. Libraries are not frills or luxuries, they were needed then and are still a needed value for an educated society.

    • We don’t need excessive library expense any more than you need to buy a set of encyclopedias for your kids. Google it honey.

    • barbara dowell says:

      I have a correction on the date. Carnegie’s date for the creation of libraries is the 1890″s, not the 1980’s.

  2. Google is great and I use it all the time. However, when doing research, not everything is available on the internet. Reference librarians provide valuable searches and help patrons locate significant information. Civilized society would be lost without libraries and the librarians who provide valuable services. I see what is happening in California as a positive step in the right direction. We do need more funding for libraries. Cuts in library spending have been drastic in recent years.

  3. Sallie Pine says:

    It isn’t just reference services (for any age), much as that is where my personal heart lives. At our library in Fremont, we get a minimum of 1500 people a day through our doors, 3000+ on Saturdays, and it has been known to top 4000. We circulated well over 1.5 million items in FY 2011-12, and over 68,000 people came to programming for kids, teens and adults. We’re the city’s performing arts center, gathering place and cultural center. Clearly it isn’t just about research– though we did also answer over 102,000 reference questions last year, too.