Quick Take:

As the community continues its efforts to enhance & expand the county’s public library facilities, Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries is urging devoted patrons to “realize the promise” of Measure S by learning about new projects and getting involved.

Where does public library funding come from? Many voters are confused.

According to the Institute for Museum and Libraries Services, data shows that 86% of public library funding comes from local sources. Yet, 59% of voters think most library funding comes from non-local sources like state and federal funds.

Building, maintaining, staffing, and resourcing public libraries is truly a local effort, supported by local funds. Santa Cruz County voted to improve Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ 10-branch system with the passing of Measure S in 2016. With 70% approval, $67 million was dedicated to “modernize, upgrade, and repair” local public libraries. To capitalize on these much needed rebuilds and renovations, the Friends of the SCPL asked the community to Realize the Promise and make our libraries the best they can be—now and for future generations.

The community answered.

In addition to replacing falling roofs, updating dilapidated bathrooms, installing new electrical systems, and rebuilding structurally damaged facilities as Measure S language directed, community champions contributed almost $3 million in additional funds to create library spaces that reflect the character of the neighborhoods they serve.

More community rooms, new teen and children’s areas, technology upgrades, and outdoor spaces have been added or are currently under construction at Boulder Creek, Felton, La Selva, Capitola, Scotts Valley, Live Oak, Garfield Park, and Branciforte branches. The Friends thanks the many individuals, families, businesses, and organizations that helped make these libraries beautiful, safe, and inviting spaces for many years to come.

10 Branches + Measure S + Community Support = 1 Great Library System

What’s next? The well-loved Aptos branch awaits demolition on the corner of Soquel Drive and East Ledyard Way. The unassuming sand-colored building opened in 1975, serving readers and lifelong learners for decades. The building is now surrounded by a chain link fence and could be easily missed on a drive through Aptos’ main corridor. But not for long…

A new 12,000 square foot building is projected to open in 2023 with flexible rooms for meetings and studying, garden and terrace areas, and a local history section in partnership with the Aptos History Museum.

Aptos resident Bob Fifield is eager to resume his daily walks to the library to read newspapers, relax in a comfortable chair, and allow his fast-moving mind to work through the many ideas it conjures regarding transportation, energy, and education.

Perhaps Fifield was sitting in one of those comfortable library chairs when he considered his legacy of 71 years. Simply put, he was either going to buy a Tesla or donate to the new Aptos library as part of the Friends’ Capital Campaign. After some thought (but not much, he admits) he knew the Tesla would sit in his driveway mostly unused because of his passion for biking almost everywhere. He also knew that a Tesla-sized donation to the Aptos branch would help create a community space for learners of all ages for generations to come. Fifield puts it plainly: “The library needs money now.” His driveway can wait.

An approved design for the downtown mixed-use facility.
An approved design for the downtown mixed-use facility. Credit: Via City of Santa Cruz

As the community awaits its new library building in south county, its only natural to ponder the fate of Santa Cruz’s downtown branch—the last and final branch to get attention from Measure S funds. After receiving and implementing much community input- Less parking! More housing! More public open space! Don’t bury the library under parking! Make it greener! Make it financially feasible! Jayson Architects revealed a design for a mixed-use facility that includes a 35,000 square foot library, a rooftop terrace, 125 affordable housing units, and 310 parking spaces that can be converted for other uses should parking demand decrease. Commercial and daycare space are also included in the design. On December 14, 2021, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to move forward with the project design.

The Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries urges library lovers far and wide to Realize the Promise of Measure S by learning about new projects and getting involved. And, if you have the good fortune to decide between a new Tesla or a new library, take a note from Bob Fifield and consider the legacy you want to leave behind.

Grace comes to Lookout from just over the hill, originally from Sunnyvale but with a variety of journalism experience from across the country.After doing her undergrad at Seattle University, Grace earned...