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Your actions and financial support make a difference. Add your voice as a library advocate.

More than 11,000 San Diegans shared their input to guide the development of the critically-needed Library Master Plan. San Diegans love their library, its services, and the beloved staff. The Plan envisions libraries that are welcoming, well-functioning, and well-maintained. This vision also seeks equitable access to library services and spaces throughout the city.

Unfortunately, the current City budget does not make this vision possible. With the library’s budget of 3.45 percent of overall General Fund spending, the library continues to fall even further behind the Library Ordinance’s 6 percent goal. This brings the total unrealized library funding to over $641 million over the past 22 years!

Our libraries cannot deliver services, programs, and resources we rely on when:

  • SDPL’s per-capita operating budget is less than 70 percent of the California state average and well behind many of its urban library peers,
  • With a books, materials, and e‑resources budget of more than $7.4 million, San Diego County spends more than three-and-a-half times than does the City of San Diego,
  • SDPL’s security spending is larger than its materials budget, and
  • The library system has over $50 million in deferred maintenance issues and no maintenance budget to address them.

We ask the Council to address systemic and historic library underfunding and include these investments in the FY25 City budget.

Take action by completing the form below, which will send your message directly to your elected officials.

More about our library’s budget needs

1.Invest $495,000 to ensure every branch has a full-time Youth Service Librarian.

Youth Service Librarians (YSLs) are the backbone of the library’s relationship with the community. They spark a love of reading in young children, provide a safe afterschool learning environment for teens, and promote year-round learning by managing the popular Summer Reading Program. In 2022, more than 5,900 families received their My First Library Card” and participated in early learning activities; 9,500 children participated in tutoring and literacy camps; and a record number of participants completed both the Summer Reading and the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten programs.

Five branches – North Clairemont, Allied Gardens/​Benjamin, San Carlos, Tierrasanta, and Kensington-Normal Heights — lack a full-time youth librarian. This creates inequities in the delivery of services for the library’s youngest learners with only part-time youth librarians. If equity is a priority, ensuring every library location can benefit from a full-time Youth Services Librarian is a must.

2. Invest $500,000 to create a library maintenance budget.

The Library Department currently does not have a recurring maintenance budget and struggles to meet ongoing basic maintenance needs. Community frustration around this issue was palpable during Library Master Plan outreach sessions.

The Plan notes that many library locations don’t meet modern accessibility standards and substantial capital maintenance needs (i.e., replacement of building components and systems like roofs, lighting, electrical, and HVAC) have accumulated.” A 2015 Facilities Condition Assessment found six branches were in Poor” condition (meaning a capital backlog more than 30 percent of the facility’s replacement cost) — Kensington-Normal Heights, Linda Vista, Ocean Beach, Paradise Hills, Rancho Bernardo, San Carlos, and University Heights.

Now is the time to invest $500,000 and create an ongoing library maintenance budget line item. Ensuring the maintenance of city facilities so that every San Diegan can benefit from quality library programs is critical.

3. Increase the books and materials budget with an ongoing $250,000 increase.

The Mayor and Council approved a FY2024 budget that provides a one-time $250,000 increase in materials spending. These funds are a short-term help, as is the three-year $500,000 materials grant via the State of California.

Ongoing, recurring materials investments are needed to help the library keep pace with inflation and to creep closer to materials spending levels of San Diego County and other peer library systems.

The County of San Diego Library’s materials budget this year is $7.4 million, of which $3.7 million is for digital and electronic resources, compared to SDPL’s entire materials budget of $2.1 million.

As the Library Master Plan Framework document notes, Even with considerable match support from the San Diego Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the San Diego Public Library, SDPL’s per-capita operating budget is still less than 70% of the California state average, and well behind many of its urban library peers. This has myriad impacts on SDPL’s ability to provide service: a collection that is too small to meet the community’s interests, particularly for materials in multiple languages… SDPL is a highly creative and innovative organization, but innovation and creativity alone cannot fill the gaps and build capacity for the future.”

Every step of the way, our libraries and library staff have responded to community needs by providing world-class services and resources that change lives daily in every community. They deserve to be treated like the essential city service they are.

You can make a difference. Please contact your elected officials and ask them to do more for the library.

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Library Master Plan

LibrariesTransformSD Coalition