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Public Library Fund (PLF)

Prior to the elimination of State funding in FY 2011/12, the program provided direct state aid to California public libraries for basic public library service.

(Education Code, Title 1, Division 1, Part 11, Chapter 1.5, Articles 1- 4, Sections 18010-18032)

State Librarian's Certification of Population Figures for Use in FY 2017/18 Allocation (PDF)

Persons Served by California Public Libraries for 2017 (PDF)

Background and Purpose

The stated intent of the program was to embody the state's interest in the general diffusion of information and knowledge through free public libraries; encourage lifelong learning; supplement the system of free public education; help libraries serve as sources of information and inspiration to persons of all ages, cultural backgrounds and economic status; and furnish a resource for continuing education. The funds assured the availability to every resident of the state an adequate level of public library service regardless of the taxable wealth of the local jurisdiction providing the service.

Localities may use the funds freely so long as the funds serve the public library purposes stated in the law.

Funding Formula

The law permits the Legislature to appropriate an amount up to 10% of a target "foundation" level of service based on a per capita cost each year. This foundation level, adjusted annually, has risen from $37.6 million in 1987/88 to $106.8 million in 2008/09. Funding was eliminated in 2011/12.

The state appropriation has never reached the target level. In the first year, 1983, the state appropriation was $6 million, and has varied from $56.8 million. (80% of full funding) in 1999/00 to $12.9 million (12% of full funding) in 2008/09.

The state awarded a dollar amount to qualifying public libraries equal to the proportional share of the total amount appropriated by the Legislature and signed by the Governor each year, based on the population of the library's service area as certified by the State Librarian each spring prior to the year of award. The population factor used was based on census data compiled annually by the Dept. of Finance for the entire state.

There have been a number of one-time and ongoing revisions to the funding formula throughout the existence of this program.


All California public libraries were eligible to apply. No separate allocations were made below jurisdiction level.

Awards were made only to those libraries that formally apply using the forms provided, and that apply on time (annual deadlines are in effect in the law). To qualify the local governing body (county, city, district) must have appropriated funds to the library that are at least equal to its appropriation for the immediate preceding year (so called "maintenance of effort," or MOE). The revenue was calculated on the local funds appropriated not actual expenditures, and the compliance with MOE is based on a comparison of the dollar amount certified by the library as of each successive annual submission.

There were specific requirements for what could be counted as local revenue in the calculation.

There were limited provisions for waiver of the MOE requirement.

Elements that could be included as local revenue were:

Local appropriation or allocation by jurisdiction to the library
Homeowner and business inventory exemption reimbursements for the state
Contract payment from another jurisdiction for which the library provides services
Federal revenue sharing funds for operations, not capital outlay; block grants (CDBG)
Amount for facility and small equipment maintenance and administration (whether or not included in library allocation)
Fines, fees, gifts, other local income not included above

Elements that could not be included as local revenue were:

California Library Services Act (CLSA) funds
Public Library Fund Act (PLF) funds
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)
Appropriation or allocation for major capital improvements (see definition, Sec. 18015(b), p.2 below)

Role of the State Library and State Librarian

The State Library was responsible for receiving the annual certifications of locally appropriated revenue, for determining eligibility, and for accomplishing disbursement of the funds (through the State Controller). The State Librarian annually, each June, certifies the local population figures based upon the census data compiled as outlined above.


For general program, policy, and status information, contact the State Library's PLF Program Coordinator, Monica Rivas, (916) 653-5471, email

(Documents in PDF format can be viewed with the Adobe Acrobat Reader.)