Sonoma County Library


Sonoma County Library Foundation

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History of the Library Foundation

The Foundation has been established as a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and has been designated a 501 (c)(3) by the IRS. Managed by the Board of Directors, the Foundation is wholly independent of the Library and its Commission.

With private financial support, the Foundation expects to enhance, not replace the current funding system.

The goals of the foundation are:

  • to encourage and provide for the development and implementation of innovative library services;
  • to enhance library collections through direct gifts or endowments;
  • to expand patron access to information with state-of-the-art technology.

History of the Library

The Sonoma County Library is both one of the oldest and one of the newest public libraries in California.

The Petaluma Free Public Library was established in 1878. Similar libraries were established in Santa Rosa in 1884, Healdsburg in 1898, Sonoma in 1903, Sebastopol in 1911, and Cloverdale in 1913.

In 1945 the Board of Supervisors established the Sonoma County Library to serve the unincorporated areas of the county. By the 1960's, the people of Sonoma County began to realize that their seven separate libraries were not serving them equally and efficiently. The county and the cities therefore entered into a series of agreements that led to consolidating their libraries. The last agreement, signed in 1975, held the Sonoma County Library as the only public library in the county.

The Library is managed by the Sonoma County Library Commission. Five of the Commission's seven members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors, one from each of the county's supervisorial districts. The other two members are appointed by the cities of Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

Why a Foundation?

Before Proposition 13 in 1978, the Sonoma County Library was funded primarily by special property taxes. Proposition 13 abolished all such taxes and reduced the library's property tax support by a full two-thirds.

The Library's remaining tax support has not kept pace with population growth, inflation and the increasing costs of modern library services. A limited program of state aid provides less than 4% of the Library's budget.


Unpaid volunteers help fill the library's under-funded needs by shelving books and performing other necessary tasks. The Library could not function without these dedicated people.

Friends of the Library

The Library receives some financial support from volunteer organizations called Friends of the Library. The Friends function in each region of the county served by the Library. Through fund raising activities, they finance purchases and programs beyond the reach of the Library's budget.

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