October 5, 2001

Commentary

Budget Crisis at Public Law Library Threatens Branches


Lacking income, the San Diego County Public Law Library may be forced to close one or two of its branches early next year. The Public Law Library currently has three branches-one in Vista, one in East County, and one in South Bay, as well as its Main Library in downtown San Diego.

The Public Law Library, a special district government funded almost solely by filing fees from the civil court, has seen its annual budget slowly consumed by inflation over the last nine years. Since 1992, with increased use of arbitration and loss of filing fees due to fee waivers from the court, the Library's income has remained flat, despite two increases in the filing fee. Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index has risen 22 percent and the cost of law books has risen 60 percent.

Over those years, the Public Law Library has reduced staff and slashed its book budget, while watching its reserves continue to dwindle. This year, in order to keep the branches open, the Library cut another $90,000 out of its book budget, and reduced hours at the Main Library, while cutting its reserves to about one month's operating budget. It plans to cut hours at branches later this fall.

The Public Law Library Board of Trustees plans to ask the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to approve a filing fee increase of $3 this fall, to be effective January 2002, in order to help the Law Library stay afloat and keep all branches open. Charles Dyer, Director of Libraries, stated, "We desperately need this filing fee increase. Otherwise we will have to close at least one branch in the spring, maybe two."

The Public Law Library provides information and guidance to residents in how to do their own legal research and represent themselves in court. The Library also supports members of the legal community in their legal research and professional development.

The Library's supporters urge the community to write to their county supervisors in order to let them the importance of the Public Law Library and its services. A complete listing of the names, districts and contact information for the County Board of Supervisors can be found at http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/cnty/bos/.

 

Submitted by Amy Hale Janeke of the Public Law Library

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