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San Luis Obispo County votes to withdraw from Black Gold Cooperative Library system

San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted today to withdraw from the Black Gold Cooperative Library system, which serves seven public library jurisdictions along the Central Coast.

This withdrawal means SLO County will now transition to an independent model this summer.

The Black Gold Cooperative Library system is a third party vendor that allows jurisdictions to share collections and helps libraries in operation services. It's a popular option for book lovers, such as Leonard Carpenter.

“It’s a system that seems to be a very valuable service," Carpenter said. "I’ve used it on and off for 45 years, and I’m surprised it would be terminated."

Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg said she received several emails from people like Carpenter who were concerned the withdrawal from the Black Gold system meant they would have fewer options of requesting books from outside their jurisdiction.

“My criticism of it at this point would be that our messaging and getting in front of it," Ortiz-Legg said. "So people didn’t have the fear that everything was going to be taken away.”

SLO County Library Director Chris Barnickel said those fears from library users stemmed from misinformation spreading about the withdrawal.

Barnickel said the county shifting to an independent model will save the county money, and will still provide the same service to library users.

“The thought that there are going to be fewer items available is just patently false," Barnickel said. " We are fortunate that we have a large system, we have great funding and we can put these moneys into collections that our patrons need.”

The supervisors unanimously approved the withdrawal from the Black Gold System, and the transition means SLO County libraries will have their own independent model launching July 1 of this year.

Barnickel said it should be a seamless transition for library users, and county Black Gold card holders won’t have to get a new library card, but new county cards will be available.

“Nothing in this, even the exit to withdrawal, precludes us from borrowing materials from other jurisdictions," Barnickel said. "So there is the same opportunity, it’s just a re-focus of operations to keep the money here in San Luis Obispo.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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