On July 1, the Chula Vista Public Library raised its fee for photo reproductions from its digitized photographic collection from $3 to $125. In June, photo reproductions were suspended until the implementation of the new fees.
Local historian John Rojas donated most of the photographs that depict ranches, schools, and businesses throughout old Chula Vista. Thanks to former full-time librarian Donna Golden’s preservation efforts, the collection grew to more than 5000 photos and the public was welcome to request reproductions for private use and for publications at low cost.
Part-time librarian Iris Nelson took over responsibility for the collection after being trained by Golden. Nelson was then slated to devote five hours per week to the collection; however, busy working conditions for library staff have hindered local history research.
Librarians currently must rotate through stations every hour, including seven staff members trained for the money-making passport-issuing office. The rotation schedule also means it takes several weeks to fulfill photographic reproduction requests.
Branch manager Debbie Taylor recently responded to questions about the fee hike in an email, writing, “In 2008, the library budget was slashed in half due to the economic downturn. The library chose to maintain basic core services, and support of Local History was diminished to just a mere 5 hours a week. The librarian who was providing those 5 hours a week towards this service just retired this past March.
“At this point, there is no full-time librarian assigned to Local History. Iris Nelson is a part-time librarian, whose 20-hour schedule is spent providing customer service at our public service desks. As allowable in quiet times, she is able to spend a small amount of time on Local History projects.
"We have suspended fulfilling photo requests due to a lack of staff to complete these requests. We are currently recruiting for a full-time librarian, but this is a slow process. After this librarian is in place, we will evaluate our resources to see if we are able to restore 5 hours a week towards Local History projects or requests.”
Taylor added, “In addition to the staffing challenges, all city departments are looking holistically at ways to increase revenue. All city departments are looking at services that are value-added, or beyond the scope of basic core services. Charging for room reservations, and photo requests fall under that category. We are fully researching what other municipalities and organizations are doing, and any fee structure will be in line with what other agencies are doing.”
While costs for photographic reproductions have gone up to $125 at the Chula Vista library, the National City Public Library, which suffers from similar budget cuts and staffing shortages, tops off charges for its photographic reproductions at $65.