County Library District Eliminates Annual Library Card Fee: Making All County Libraries Free For the First Time Since 2011

October 31, 2014


SANTA CLARA COUNTY - The Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board voted yesterday to eliminate the $80 annual fee for a library card for people who do not live in the library district, making all libraries in the county free to use for the first time since 2011. The vote was 8 – 3 in favor of the motion made by County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who is serving his second year on the JPA.

Until 2011, the State reimbursed public libraries for lending materials to residents of other library jurisdictions. When the State announced plans in 2011 to cut the $2.1 million the Santa Clara County Library District received to allow non-district residents to use its libraries, the JPA voted to approve a $80 annual fee for a library card for non-residents to make up the loss.

With the JPA’s vote on Thursday to eliminate the $80 annual fee, residents of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, San Jose, and Santa Clara will be able to use any library in the county for free for the first time since 2011.

Simitian noted that, “No other library system in the county charges non-residents for a library card. So residents of the County Library District could borrow freely in other communities, but the residents of those other communities got slapped with an $80 fee when they showed up in our District and asked for reciprocity.”

“To make matters worse,” Simitian said, “the fee didn’t raise much money, cost a lot to administer, and was a nuisance to members of the public who had to provide proof of residency.”

“It just struck me as wrong on so many levels,” said Simitian. “Our public libraries aren’t truly public when we charge an entrance fee. This $80 charge essentially became a ‘knowledge tax.’ It’s time we stopped charging folks for access.”

Simitian initially suggested the Library District review the fee during the County budget process in June, earlier this year. It was, he said, “one of the first issues I heard about when I started holding sidewalk office hours in my district. I did a little homework, made my case, and discovered that others shared my concerns.”

Library District Board Chair Jason Baker, who also serves as a Campbell City Councilmember, supported the elimination of the fee. “I’m delighted that every resident of the County will now have access to our libraries,” he said.

Prior to this vote, to be eligible for a free Santa Clara County Library District card, you had to reside or own property in the unincorporated area of Santa Clara County or in one of the following nine cities or towns: Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill or Saratoga.

The $80 fee will be eliminated effective July 1, 2015.

To learn more about the Santa Clara County Library District, visit


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