SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica Public Library earns the nation’s highest score in the Library Journal’s annual rankings and remains Southern California’s leading public library four years in a row.
On Monday, December 2, the city’s public library announced it received the best possible score of a five-star rating from the 2013 Public Library Service Index list that the Library Journal publishes every year. The Santa Monica Public Library has been the only public library in Southern California to earn the impressive five-star rating.
This year’s list used 2011 data from the government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services to rank 7,573 public libraries from across the nation on their performance based upon each library’s amount of visits, materials rented, program attendance and Internet computer use by its service population.
Out of the thousands of ranked libraries, only 263 public libraries earned three, four or five-star ratings. Canyon News spoke with Acting City Librarian Wright Rix to understand how Santa Monica’s public library has been able to consistently provide high-quality service to its community.
“What the hard data represents is Santa Monica, as a city, really supports the library to a great degree,” said Rix. According to the city librarian, one distinguishing factor is the high percentage of Santa Monica’s population with college or advanced degrees, “So I think its safe to say that this cohort of people were able to prosper using libraries, so they perceive its value,” Rex stated.
Another significant source of civic support is financial, with each Santa Monicaresident paying about $140 to fund the library’s budget, which Rex said “is much smaller in most other cities.”
Since the economic downturn in the past few years, “most public libraries had to cut services, cut hours and furlough staff—but that didn’t happen here,” Rex explained. And while many bookstore chains are closing, the Santa Monica Public Library is expanding—adding more eBooks and audio books and being visited more frequently by bestselling authors and out-of-towners.
“The city as whole is a destination, but the library itself is a magnet,” said Rex, with people traveling “quite a distance” to use the library’s services. “The feedback we get from LA residents is they are able to put a bestseller on hold here and receive it much more quickly than they would at a library near home,” the city librarian added.
Established in 1890, the Santa Monica Public Library’s service “has been continuous over time and the city’s commitment to the organization non-stinting,” professed the librarian, “I think we benefit from this long sense of legacy felt about Santa Monica Library.”