Library staff requests endowment to access needed funds

Malibu Library. Photo by Samantha Bravo.

The Library Subcommittee met virtually on April 20 to provide an update on the Malibu Library Set Aside Fund for Fiscal Year 2022 as well as the return of the in-person Malibu Library Speakers Series since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last subcommittee meeting on June 8, 2021, addressed the use of the Malibu Library set-aside funds for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. As of June 30, 2020, the Set Aside Fund totaled approximately $12.4 million. It is expected that approximately $1 million will be added annually to this fund through the life of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This item is included as Item 7.a. in the proposed Work Plan for fiscal year 2021-2022.

Services for the Malibu Public Library are paid for from a designated portion of property tax. Every year Los Angeles County sets aside the difference between the city’s library portion of the property tax revenue and the Malibu Library expenses into a designated fund. The Set Aside Fund beginning balance in Fiscal Year 2022-2023 was approximately $13.5 million. This estimate is based on an approximate amount of $1 million being added to the Set Aside Fund each year and an estimated cost of living increase of 3 percent.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles County Library closed its 86 library locations, including the Malibu Library, on March 14, 2020. Although the facility was closed to the public, the Malibu Library continued to provide some service to the community. 

Two local authors series programs took place in 2019 and were well received by the community. Several authors expressed interest in participating in future events, and programs were scheduled to resume in March 2020. Both series were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, the Malibu Library was open to the public 56 hours per week. From April 2021 to February 2022, the public hours were 40 per week. From Feb. 14, the Malibu Library’s expanded hours of operation increased to 60 hours per week. The Malibu Library Speaker Series held its first virtual event in November 2021 and on April 7 its first in-person event since the start of the pandemic.

The estimated Set Aside Fund beginning balance in Fiscal Year 2022-2023 will be approximately $16.6 million. It was previously estimated that approximately $1 million would be added to the Set Aside Fund each year based on certain assumptions, including an estimated cost of living increase of 3 percent and did not take into account a change in the cost of the services being provided or a significant increase or decrease in revenue. In the last two years, the Set Aside Fund balance has grown more than anticipated due in part to the fact that unspent allocations have remained in the County Set Aside Fund. Any unused allocations for the Malibu Library Speaker Series or any other library position or service identified by the city, remain in the County’s Malibu Library Set Aside Fund for programming in future fiscal years.

Since 2013, the city and county have agreed to fund the Library Speaker Series. The series has featured renowned speakers, such as climate change researcher and author Elizabeth Rush, astrophysicist Jessie Christianson, author Joyce Carol Oates, and political adviser Dan Pfeiffer. The events are free of charge and typically require an advanced reservation to attend. Historically, the Library Speaker Series includes nine to 10 events each year. 

During the April 20 meeting, some community members have voiced interest in allocating Set Aside Funds for new or different purposes than the city has done in previous years, such as events at Pepperdine University.

Library staff and Malibu schools staff spoke to thank the subcommittee for the funds that were provided for 2021 and library staff requested to start an endowment to support library needs.

“An endowment is essential to library foundations; in fact, most have them, certainly all the major library systems have them,” LA County Library Foundation Executive Director Andrea Carroll said. “It’s a pool of funds that’s unrestricted so that it can cover operating expenses, it can cover unexpected needs from the library so it provides flexibility and a sense of growth and reliable support.” 

The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) Executive Director Kasey Earnest thanked the subcommittee for the support throughout the pandemic and asked if they could get additional funds to help support students and families in regards to mental health and wellness in partnership with Malibu public schools. 

“There’s an unlimited need at the moment and it’s individual and it’s also grade level, it’s our teachers and classified staff we really are working together to try address the needs of our school communities,” Earnest said. “And it extends to our parent community and so the resources that we have in the mental health space are available to parents, as well as to anyone in our community.” 

Councilmember Karen Farrer asked the speakers to submit their proposal on paper to present to the City Council before they approve the following fiscal year budget.

Farrer moved to continue the items and meet again before the end of May. Councilmember Mikke Pierson seconded the motion. Motion passed.

The 2022-2023 Malibu Library Speaker Series will commence in August 2022 and conclude in May 2023. Staff recommends continuing the Local Authors Series quarterly in Fiscal Year 2022-2023. The annual cost to host both programs is approximately $125,000. Farrer and Pierson approved the funded programs.