Budget woes forced the Montecito Library to cut nine hours from operations last month, but volunteers are working to restore the time and funds needed to keep the longtime community resource viable.
The branch of the Santa Barbara County Public Library System slashed its weekly hours from 45 to 36 on July 1, and that number will dip again if Friends of the Montecito Library doesn’t raise enough money by July 2018.
That’s when the county reserves that have funded about a third of the Montecito Library in recent years will be depleted.
The Montecito Library is now closed both Sundays and Mondays — instead of just Sundays — and Saturday hours were reduced to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Every other day of the week (Tuesday to Friday) the library at 1469 E. Valley Rd. will remain open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“The big thing is we lost Monday,” said Pat Saley, president of the Friends of the Montecito Library nonprofit organization.
“You’d be surprised how many people used to come in on Mondays. Our long-term goal is to get back to six days a week. It’s going to take some money. That takes some time.”
Saley said the nonprofit library group hopes to grow its endowment of $600,000 from generous donors, with a goal of restoring hours by 2018, if not sooner.
Although the County Board of Supervisors approved overall increases to library funding, Montecito sustained cuts because it doesn’t have a city to back it up, according to Margaret Esther, library services manager of the Santa Barbara Library System which operates the Montecito branch for the county.
Carpinteria and Solvang branches were projected to see reductions as well, she said, but the cities provided enough financial backing to stave off cuts.
Funding is determined by the number of residents in the service area. As an unincorporated area in the county, Montecito has some 11,000 residents.
Esther said Friends of the Montecito Library funds a majority of the East Valley Road branch’s operations — about $71,000 last fiscal year — along with other private donations. Library revenues were projected to be $81,000 this year, she said.
The library lends more than 100,000 materials annually and had about 57,000 visitors last year, Esther said.
“They’ve been raising a lot of money for a lot of years,” she said of the nonprofit.
“I’m very glad they’re trying to recruit more support for their community.”
The Montecito Library has been in its current location on and off since 1900, most recently moving back into the renovated space around 1980.
Saley said Friends of the Montecito Library hasn’t ruled out the idea of pursuing a special tax measure to fund library operations — Goleta is considering the same move — but would rather avoid that road.
“The library is a gem,” Saley said. “Our challenge now is getting the word out.”