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Cities may gain more control over Sonoma County library branches

  • Sonoma County library director Sandra Cooper, who announced her retirement in June, supports having a stronger, “totally independent” commission. (Christopher Chung/Press Democrat)

More cities would have a say over how the Sonoma County Library operates, including whether to increase hours when certain branches are open, under proposed revisions to a joint powers agreement to be unveiled today.

A revamped library commission, presumably with members drawn from all nine cities in the county, also would play a more prominent role in budget affairs, including having the ability to seek new taxes that could in theory help cover costs for expanded hours and services.

The review of the 1975 agreement was launched in October amid a torrent of criticism over Library Director Sandy Cooper's management style and the commission's perceived acquiescence to her demands.

Cooper, 67, announced her retirement in June. Her last day is Friday.

North County Supervisor Mike McGuire led the review, which was widely interpreted as a bid on the part of the supervisors to gain more control of the library system, including possibly the ability to hire and fire the director.

McGuire on Monday said the proposed changes are “only going to strengthen the commission and ultimately hold that director accountable.”

But a case also could be made that the proposed changes would further distance supervisors from the library's day-to-day operations and allow them to deflect any future concerns to commissioners or to city officials who appoint them.

“The board won't have to put up with people standing up and complaining about the library all the time,” Cooper said Monday.

However, the departing director said she supports having a stronger, “totally independent” commission.

The review committee includes one representative each from the nine cities, the county, the Board of Supervisors and the library commission.

Under the draft agreement, county supervisors would appoint a single member to the commission, as opposed to the current practice of five members drawn from each of their districts. City councils in all nine cities also could appoint representatives, not just those in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

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