Guest Column: Library Facts

Pamela Conley Ulich

Can libraries be relevant and vital to not only the Malibu community, but to our country?

“Libraries are a public good and a civic responsibility. They are about our future as much as our past …  The notion that they could be replaced by Google is tantamount to suggesting that Americans are better off with vending machines instead of farmers markets.” Andrew Lopez – New Orleans College Librarian (Cited by his father, Steve Lopez, in LA Times Article in November 2011)

Six years ago, the Malibu Library underwent a $6 million-or-so renovation. The new Malibu Library opened on Earth Day, Sunday April 22, 2012. Its theme—”Read Local. Shop Local. Think Global.”—coincided with the farmers market (located in the library parking lot), a book festival, a beach clean-up at Surfrider Beach and Legacy Park and an eco festival—to feed your mind, body and soul. Malibu witnessed a metamorphosis of our old library into a LEED-certified more sustainable library, and our library was expanded by adding a green garden paid primarily from the green we taxpayers already paid into the library system throughout the years.

The Malibu renovations were based on community feedback and the Library Task Force recommendations found in the Library Needs Assessment of 2005. (Please note: The 2005 survey was filled out by approximately 328 people in Malibu).

Today, Malibu is on the cusp of reevaluating our library needs and wants. (See Recently, approximately 606 people took the Malibu Library Needs Assessment survey.

The next Malibu Town Hall meeting to discuss the Malibu Library will be on May 9, 2018 at Malibu City Hall at 7 p.m.

You are cordially invited to participate to insure your recommendations are heard and implemented.

It is imperative that the city hear from you now, not later. Should we provide services on the west end of town? Should we explore a joint use agreement with the Malibu High School Library? What do you want, Malibu?

By way of background, under state law, cities like Malibu are allowed to keep property taxes residents contribute to deliver library services. The City of Calabasas is an example of a city that runs its own library. Other cities, like Agoura, West Hollywood, Manhattan Beach and Malibu are operated by the LA County library system.

In 2008, the City of Malibu entered into an agreement with LA County. Malibu negotiated the right to use the tax overages paid for library services to improve our local library. Prior to this, the City of Malibu property tax revenues were used at the sole discretion of LA County.

In 2011, residents in the City of Malibu contributed about $2 million or so per year, and our library cost about $800,000 per year to run. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, Malibu contributed $3,563,688 in property taxes for library services, the library cost $1,650,913 to run and we now have surplus $ 1,912,775 from last year according to a letter sent by LA County Librarian Skye Patrick on November 27, 2017. This surplus has been building up over the past years.

The story of the metamorphosis of the library began many years ago for me when I routinely took my two young children to Malibu Library storytime. I loved watching their eyes light up as they listened to incredible adventures. After story time, the children were invited to take up an instrument like a tambourine and march around the library reading room or do an arts and crafts activity. Those memories are everlasting, and many others in Malibu have shared similar stories with me of how the library has inspired them.

Around 2003, the incredible Malibu children’s librarian who lead the “story time” for tots in our community was transferred to another library “over the hill.” She invited us to visit the story time in her new library. The differences were drastic. In this library, children had a safe area with separate family bathrooms, chairs made especially for small people, a plethora of computers stations for both kids and adults and an intimate gazebo area from which they could participate in story time. The entrance of the library contained a warm fireplace and nice and comfortable chairs that invited you to sit on them and read. This led to what Oprah would call an “ah-ha” moment.

Many people in our community began to meet and come together to see how we could provide our children and all patrons with a similar library experience. I ran for Malibu City Council in 2002, after being told if I ran I would lose, and one of my goals was to improve our library and increasing culture and arts in our community. By some miracle, I was elected to serve on the Malibu City Council and spent the next eight years working on improving our library.

In 2004-05, the City of Malibu and the County of Los Angeles Public Library (CoLAPL) conducted an extensive Community Library Needs Assessment (CLNA) to evaluate the library service needs of the service area and to assess the ability of the current library facility to deliver these services. The CLNA included a survey, community meetings, focus groups, site visits, benchmark studies, stakeholder interviews, including local school personnel and elected officials, collection evaluation, study of current usage, and an analysis of the existing facility. The major findings indicated the need for a major remodel of the current facility, with special attention the children’s area, a deep weeding of the collection, introduction of more self-service technology, increased attention paid to our collections, and more publicity for current programs and services. Deficiencies included inefficient use of interior space, dated décor, acoustical issues, lack of technology, community room and a myriad of other issues relating to a building of this age. The CLNA included short-term and long-term recommendations with the major recommendation being a remodel of the 12,800 square-foot county-owned facility.

Fast forward to 2018, we now have funds to again reevaluate where we are and where we can go to insure library services are top notch and adequately address Malibu’s needs and wants. I am confident that Malibu will be both cutting edge and creative in deciding our library destiny.