Question about the future of the library? We've got answers!

Authored on
February 17, 2022

SBPL is starting a new chapter. We’re implementing changes to our operations, developing a new mission statement and strategic plan, launching a new catalog and website — all with the goal of better serving the community. We’re here to answer your questions about anything regarding our withdrawal from Black Gold and what this means for you and library services. We feel strongly that we’re moving in the right direction and that these changes will benefit the community.

Listed below are some of the answers to frequently asked questions about the changes. Have more? Email us at

We’re writing this new chapter together.

Can I still use my Black Gold library card?

YES! If you have an old “Black Gold” card you’ve had since you were a kid, a white or black card with our logo or any library card number that begins with 21447, that card will continue to work just like it has before. No need to change anything!

Can I still check out ebooks and digital audiobooks from Overdrive/Libby?

YES! While currently you would select “Black Gold” as your library in Overdrive and Libby, SBPL will be continuing to provide ebooks and digital audiobooks. In fact, while SBPL contributes to some shared content through Black Gold as a member library, we also purchased additional content both to reduce wait times for the most popular items and to add titles that aren’t available through Black Gold.

SBPL will continue to invest in digital collections, so feel free to suggest titles through the app – we review that regularly when making purchases.

I want to borrow a book that isn’t available in your catalog but I see another Black Gold member library owns it. How can I get it?

There are a few ways we can help!

SBPL is not leaving Black Gold because we don’t want to share print materials anymore. We are still trying to work out a solution that would allow us to lend items to other Black Gold libraries and for us to borrow specialty and out of print materials from them.

But, if we don’t currently have what you want, the first step is to place a materials request and suggest the purchase. The new catalog makes it easy to do right from your account, and you’ll get a notice if you’re able to purchase.

You may think, why would you buy it instead of borrowing it from another library? When a librarian looks at your request, they’re making an educated guess on if other patrons will want to borrow it in the future – if we think it will be of interest to others, it might actually be less expensive for us to buy a copy to keep on our shelves rather than transport it back and forth.

If it’s out of print, or a niche interest that we don’t think will check out much relative to the cost of the item, it might be eligible for our Zip Books program, a California State Library program that allows libraries to purchase items directly to send to patrons. Library staff can place that request for you.

Isn’t sharing materials along the entire Central Coast the most efficient and cost effective way to provide library books?

In most cases, no. In fact, The Black Gold Library Cooperative is the last system of its size to share a catalog and physical materials as one big system. Why? The California State Library used to fund shipment between libraries, but that dried up more than a decade ago. Digital content has become as important as print.Gas prices have risen. It has become more expensive to transport books back and forth across multiple counties.

The average book costs about $35 (libraries get discounts, but all the stickers, barcodes, protective covers, and RFID tags add to the cost). If it’s something that the library thinks will check out on average 35 times over its life, it’s more cost effective to purchase the copy and lend it from our shelves than ship it up and down the coast.

What does it cost to ship a book? There’s someone who pulls it from the shelf, scans it into the system to indicate it is in transit, and then packs it in a bag. A courier loads it up, drives it to a central hub, then it is sorted again to go to its final destination. Then it’s checked in to trigger your hold notice, and placed on the shelf for you to pick up. That’s as many as seven people who have to handle your book.

Our goal is to reduce that workload when possible and invest the savings in our collections and the staff time in value added service to our community, supporting community education and literacy.

I have a Goleta library card, how does this impact me?

If you have a library card number 27510 (or any other Black Gold jurisdiction card, such as Lompoc or Santa Maria), you won’t be able to check out physical items from SBPL locations after 4/15/22 (the date the catalog transition will happen). However, you will be able to get an SBPL card at that time. We only ask that people return books to the library they borrowed them from, as we will slowly be decreasing the volume of shipment between libraries.

How do I request materials that SBPL doesn’t own?

First, make sure we don’t have the item in your preferred format. At the end of the results, you’ll see a link to submit a purchase suggestion using the “materials request” service. You can also find this option in your account menu. If you’re logged in, click on the person icon next to your name, and a menu will appear. Choose “materials request” and tell us as much information as you can. You will also receive an email verifying your submission, and staff can let you know it has been purchased or if it was unavailable. Need assistance? Just ask at any SBPL location, give us a call at (805) 962-7653, or email

How much does SBPL spend on collections?

Last fiscal year, SBPL invested $257,405 in new print materials, $403,315 in digital materials, including Overdrive/Libby ebooks and digital audiobooks, Hoopla for ebooks, digital audiobooks, movies, TV, and music, Kanopy for films and documentaries, and databases such as Consumer Reports, Linkedin Learning/, speciality business databases, and Mango language learning software, among others. In addition, magazines and newspapers cost $12,050, and we spent $67,711 on other items – mostly DVDs but also special Library of Things items, like Early Literacy Kits and telescopes. This past year was a little different than normal due to the ongoing pandemic. Because we experienced increased demand for ebooks and digital audiobooks, and we weren’t checking out quite as many physical materials when we had limited services due to public health guidelines, we shifted some funds from print to digital.

This year, we’ve been able to add additional funds for both print and digital from a combination of trusts and ARPA funds – the extra funds this year will be used to round out series where we are missing volumes, fund a big nonfiction collection update, expand our collection of Spanish books, and replace content in Overdrive/Libby that is owned by Black Gold. This will increase our overall budget by at least 25% more than last fiscal year.

To put this in perspective, the 5 remaining Black Gold Libraries spent $423,900 on print, $208,538 on digital, $319,549 on DVDs, and $20,545 on magazines and newspapers. Santa Barbara’s service population is 110,072 compared with 384,259 of all the other libraries. (These figures are reported to the California State Library each year).

How many purchase requests have we filled in a month? How many percent overall?

In January, we were able to buy 97% of the items suggested for purchase. Our goal is always to purchase 90% of items that meet our collection development policy guidelines. We average about 100 suggestions a month.

We really value the input! We are here to serve our community.

I’m on the waitlist for an item that SBPL doesn’t own. What will happen?

Librarians are reviewing waitlists on items we don't own and buying the titles we are able to. We’ve already made it through a lot! We’ve purchased hundreds of titles so far. But we’re still working on part of the list. We will send a notice if we’re not able to get it once the process is complete, and we can talk to you about other options for getting the item you want.

The new catalog is different and I’m having a hard time finding certain items. Can you help?

Yes! There are a lot of improvements we’ll be rolling out over the coming months, but it can be challenging to navigate a new system. We’re having a class on Zoom on 2/24 at 11 am (register via the calendar) to teach you all the tips and tricks for getting the best experience using the new catalog. If that time doesn’t work for you, let us know and we can book you a Reserve a Librarian appointment for a one-on-one searching session.

Will we lose access to any apps, digital learning programs, databases, or other online resources as a result of this change?

No! All of our digital resources are either provided by the State Library of California, or are a subscription or service that SBPL provides on our own, rather than through Black Gold Library Cooperative. You won’t have any changes to these! All are listed on our website under Downloads and Streaming and Databases and Resources (links in our profile!).

These include:

  • Libby/Overdrive for ebooks, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines
  • Kanopy for streaming films, documentaries, and The Great Courses
  • Hoopla for ebooks, digital audiobooks, comics, music, TV, and movies
  • Mango Languages for online language-learning in languages that include Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Arabic, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, Greek, Latin and more
  • Linkedin Learning/ for online courses, classes, training, and tutorials to learn software, creative, and business skills to achieve personal and professional goals
  • The New York Times digital access
  • Consumer Reports website that provides reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on product testing, market research, and its own product/service buying guides
  • SizeUp and Reference Solutions for market research and business intelligence tools
  • Coursera for online learning, including certificate and degree programs
  • Brainfuse:JobNow/VetNow for live online assistance, resume lab help, and wide range of academic tools to help job seekers and veterans reach their goals
  • Learning Express for interactive tutorials, practice texts, e-books and more tools help with standardized test preparation, academic skills, and career development
  • Foundation Directory Online for most comprehensive and accurate resource on U.S. grantmakers and their funding activities
  • NoveList Plus - an amazing tool for looking for your next good read, questions for your book club discussion, award winners, author read-alikes.

These changes seem like they are coming quickly and out of the blue. Why wasn’t this discussed before?

We hear you on that. We strive to always get community feedback about major initiatives, and while we’ve been working on a solution to increase efficiencies with Black Gold for years, and presented to City Council about the new catalog in November 2020 and October 2021 before moving to the new system, we didn’t anticipate the reaction of Black Gold member libraries – a 2019 plan directed members to explore options for the future of the shared catalog. After SBPL received notice that Black Gold member libraries threatened to sue, we only had a few weeks to make a decision about remaining in the cooperative. Questions? We’re happy to share details. This is all a part of the public record.

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