Cuts Threaten the Nation’s Best Public Library System

A poll in the Merc asks readers to vote on which proposed budget cuts they would least like to see. The options include cutting back on the police and fire departments, closing community centers and pools, or cutting funding for Christmas in the Park. It also includes reducing the days that local libraries operate to just three per week.

The latter would be tragic. How many people realize that the San Jose Public Library system ranks Number 1 among the ten biggest cities in the United States—even higher than such famous systems as the New York Public Library? According to the stats, there are 14.55 usages per resident, almost 50 percent higher than the Number 2 contender Phoenix, with just 10.25 usages per resident.

Now the library is counting down to the 100 million mark—100 million books and magazines passing through the checkout counter since Aug. 1, 2003. This “Countdown to 100 million” includes all of the city’s libraries plus the Martin Luther King Jr. library at San Jose State University. And the books are flying off the shelves. A counter, showing progress toward the 100 million mark, can be seen at the MLK Library, though it will be turned off as the mark approaches, probably to stop prospective winners from jostling each other on the way to the checkout counter. After all, libraries are quiet places.

The person who checks out the 100 millionth book will receive the “Ultimate Reader’s Prize Pack,” described as a tote bag crammed full of things that every reader would enjoy. We can only hope that the 100 millionth book isn’t borrowed on the same day that City Council announces that it is cutting back library operating hours. That would be too much irony.
Read More at The Mercury News.


  1. Although I relocated to Florida thirteen years ago, when I return to San Jose a trip is always made to the library.  It is a positive experience and one I forever like repeating.
    Sad to learn of future negative possibilities.

  2. San Jose has its own library system. So do Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Mountain View. Many smaller cities in the county are affiliated with the Santa Clara County library system.

    It seems to me that you could reduce significant overhead by consolidating all libraries within Santa Clara County into one library system. After all, each city does not operate its own bus system-VTA provides all of the transit (except Caltrain and Stanford’s Margurete shuttle) in the county.

    Let’s eliminate duplicate overhead among library systems. Also, one library card would work at all of the county’s libraries.

  3. What is the operating budget for each of the 11 unions that the city must fight with each year?

    How much revenue is the city bringing in?

    All of the rhetoric between the city and unions doesn’t mean a thing to the taxpayer until we all see the numbers. Once this occurs, it should become clearly obvious to our city council as to what needs to be cut, modified, or consolidated.

    Until then, the current situation does nothing but hurt the citizens of San Jose.

    • Good luck. This is the last thing the unions and city hall want. If the actual numbers were known, we all would be rioting in the streets! The parties involved seem to forget that they are civil servants. I agree, why should the bitching between the city and unions cost us?

  4. This would be terrible, to coordinate housing, as this would mean kleptocrats and aristorcrats would be able to choose groups from East San Jose to live with us.