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January 15, 2004

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Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) has been named the “2003 Legislator of the Year” by the California Library Association.  The group selected Simitian for the honor because of his “tremendous leadership by rejecting reductions of library programs,” said CLA President Les Kong.

“Public libraries have to be a priority,” Simitian said. As Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, Simitian stressed the important and essential role libraries play in promoting literacy and democracy. “Libraries are a huge asset to the community,” he said.

“I can’t think of another legislator who has worked so tirelessly to support public libraries and is more deserving of this honor than Assemblyman Joe Simitian,” said Melissa Cervantes, County Librarian of Santa Clara County Library.  Simitian also co-authored the landmark legislation that would have exempted libraries from the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund property tax shift of 1993.  Although the legislation wasn’t enacted, “Simitian worked hard to educate his colleagues on this important issue,” Cervantes said.

Susan Fuller, former Santa Clara County Librarian, also expressed her delight. “It’s marvelous that Assemblyman Simitian has been named the top legislator of the year. It is certainly well-deserved,” she said.  During his tenure on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Simitian served as a member of the Santa Clara County Library Board.

The recently retired head librarian for the Palo Alto Children’s Library said she was “thrilled” when she heard the news about Simitian’s award. “Joe has always understood the importance of the role that libraries play in children’s literacy,” said Katy Obringer, who managed the children’s library for 21 years. “Joe was instrumental in getting our library to open on Sundays. He’s the one who made it happen. Sundays are now our biggest day,” she said.

“Joe is extremely knowledgeable about public libraries and school issues. In fact, he is one of the few who is up to speed on issues important to libraries. He’s always looking for innovative and creative ways to assist us in responding to the latest budget cuts,” said Jannette Engel, Interim Director of Library Services for San Mateo County Library.

Simitian, a long-time supporter of libraries, has worked to preserve funding for the Public Library Foundation. He acknowledged he has tried to do his part to ensure that libraries continue to provide access to public information and opportunities for lifelong learning, noting that in some years, that’s easier than others. “In recent years, we’ve faced a host of challenges – on the budget front, on the internet, and in the guise of protecting national security,” Simitian said.



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