Show Me the Money! CCC Library Funding

By Elizabeth Horan, Coastline College and Brian Greene, Columbia College

Updated April 26, 2021


There are a variety of funding methods used by California community college libraries. Some libraries are funded primarily via General Fund dollars (or Basic Aid funds), while others rely heavily on categorical funding sources such as Lottery money and Physical Plant and Instructional Support or Perkins grants. It is important that libraries know about all of the possible sources of funding that are available to them and ways to advocate for this funding based on how it’s used across the state.

General Fund vs. Lottery Funding

The “General Fund” is money distributed to each college district through the state funding formula, currently the “Student Centered Funding Formula.” Some libraries are allocated money through this fund. Money from the General Fund is “unrestricted” and can be used for most purchases and is usually used to pay salaries.

Many libraries rely on lottery funds to supplement their General Fund allocations. California State lottery funds were established with Proposition 37, the California State Lottery Act of 1984. In March 2000, Proposition 20, the Cardenas Textbook Act of 2000, was passed by California voters and amended the California State Lottery Act of 1984. Quarterly apportionment figures are available on the State Controller's website while Lottery FAQs can be found on the California Department of Education website. For many libraries, the lottery money they receive is “restricted” and must be used “exclusively for the education of pupils and to purchase instructional materials and technology.” These items are defined in Education Code sections 60010(h) and 60010(m)(1). Libraries are frequently recipients of restricted lottery funds because the materials we purchase meet the requirements of Ed Code and serve a wide range of students. However, there is also a category of lottery funds that is considered unrestricted General Fund revenue. This money has much more flexibility as it is “to be used exclusively for the education of pupils and students and cannot be used for acquisition of real property, construction of facilities, and financing of research” (Accounting Advisory No. 2000-01). Some libraries report using these funds to pay for part-time librarian salaries. Check with your financial office to see how these funds are used at your college and if your library might consider them a funding source if you are not already using them.

State Funded Projects and Grants

IELM/Physical Plant and Instructional Support Funds

Currently there is no funding available for fiscal year 2021-22. However, over the years the state has provided block grants for districts to use for facilities and instructional equipment and it is possible they will return in the future. These grants used to be commonly referred to as Instructional Equipment and Library Materials (IELM) money, but now that name has been largely replaced by Physical Plant and Instructional Support funding. In the past districts had discretion to allocate their share of the funds within the guidelines of the grant (2019-20), meaning that some districts devote 100% of the funding for facilities and technology projects. However, in recent years the guidelines explicitly allow for library materials purchases, including items below the traditional $200 threshold, to be considered for funding (p.46; 55-56). This funding sometimes requires a district match, but that was not the case in 2019-20 (p.41). These funds must be intended for student use, so while library materials are an acceptable expense, staff equipment could only count if it is directly used to support learning.

Note that as part of the Physical Plant and Instruction Funding process, districts submit an Instructional Support 5 Year Plan spreadsheet to the Chancellor’s Office. Libraries can advocate to have library materials be included on the list, which is due in December each year.

TTIP/State Database Buy

One element of the Telecommunication and Technology Infrastructure Program (TTIP) allocated each college funds to purchase library databases. When this part of the program ended, CCL successfully advocated for a statewide database buy to help offset the loss of funds. The first statewide database buy was awarded to EBSCO in 2011 and renewed - again with EBSCO - in 2018 for five years.


The Library Services Platform program was initially a state-funded project to provide a cloud-based library system to all California community colleges. As of January 2021, 110 libraries have migrated to Ex Libris’ Alma and Primo systems. Continuous ongoing funding for this project is currently being sought through the Chancellor’s Office.

Student Success Related Grants

There are numerous state funded initiatives related to student success that libraries can participate in and receive funding for. For example, libraries have received professional development funding via the Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Students grant to attend conferences focused on equity issues. Guided Pathways funding has been used to integrate information literacy courses into their first year experience programs. OER funding has been used to purchase licensing agreements for OER. Student Equity and Achievement funding has been used for a variety of library-related purchases, including ESL materials and test preparation databases.

  • Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Students
    For colleges serving incarcerated students, this grant has opportunities for funding library services for incarcerated students and funding educational opportunities related to equity and access.
  • Guided Pathways
    The Student Equity and Achievement Program requires colleges to implement the Guided Pathways framework (Student Equity website).
  • Open Education Resources (OER) / Zero Textbooks Cost Degree Program
    Funding for OER has fluctuated in recent years and recently included grants through the state academic senate that libraries could apply for.
  • Student Equity and Achievement Program
    The Student Equity and Achievement Program merges funding for three initiatives: the Student Success and Support Program; the Basic Skills Initiative; and Student Equity. Colleges “Success indicators” of the Student Equity and Achievement Program are access; course completion; ESL and basic skills completion; degrees and certificates awarded; and transfer rates. Colleges funded with this grant must implement the Guided Pathways framework.

Career and Technical Education

  • California Apprenticeship Initiative
    While at first glance it might seem like a stretch for a library to be eligible for funds from the California Apprenticeship Initiative, these funds have been used to purchase books related to fields where the college has apprenticeships.
  • Strong Workforce Program
    This program aims to provide more and better career and technical education. Library leaders have argued that libraries can use the funding to support these areas.
  • Carl D. Perkins (Perkins IV)
    Perkins, also referred to as VTEA, is a federally funded effort to support career and technical education. Some libraries receive Perkins money to pay for CTE-related resources, such as CINAHL to support nursing programs and Business & Economics Video Collection to support business programs. Note that Perkins funds are available for a maximum of three years for a given project, the idea being that it should be an institutionalized expense by that point.

Foundation and Community Funding

Another source of funding utilized by some California community college libraries is from their college foundations and friends of the library groups as well as through voter approved bonds.

Endowments and College Foundations

Some libraries have established endowments through their foundations. These can be funded by a large initial donation, by small, ongoing donations (including automatic deductions from employee paychecks), and through naming rights for tiered sponsorship levels. Funds are dispersed in accordance with the agreement establishing the endowment.

Many college foundations offer grants to support specific projects. Libraries have used these “mini-grants” to purchase things like calculators for semester loans and new resources.

Friends Groups

A number of libraries have associated friends groups that support library activities by coordinating volunteers or fundraising. In some cases, libraries charge community members a fee for borrowing privileges as a way to offset the cost and to raise funds. One example of a friends group supporting libraries is the funding of extended hours and library furniture.

Capital Bonds

Districts can include library facilities and materials purchases in bond measures. If approved by voters, this can result in significant funding increases for the duration of the bond. One item to note with bonds is that electronic resources such as research databases are properly classified as library materials, which makes them acceptable, and not software, which is often prohibited. One official location for this definition is the state's Budget and Account Manual (BAM, 2012 edition), section 6300.

Other Funding Sources

Emergency/One-Time Funding

Unforeseen circumstances can lead to emergency / one-time funding opportunities for libraries to support students and the college community. One current example is the COVID-19 CARES Act and other stimulus money. Some libraries used this funding to loan various resources to students, such as wifi hotspots and laptops. While no one likes the events that lead to emergency funding, it is important to realize some of these funds can be available to libraries. If emergency or one-time funding becomes available to your college, investigate how the library could use this resource.

Student Government

Associated student government organizations across the state have funded a number of library-related projects, such as textbook loan programs, extended hours, and library events.


Charging printing and photocopying fees offsets the costs of these services. While not usually producing much revenue beyond that, it can help to ensure funds are available to replace aging equipment. Another benefit of the print management systems often used to collect funds is that they help minimize unnecessary printing and copying.

Fines and fees revenue

Some libraries continue to collect overdue fines and other fee revenue. These funds are typically used to purchase replacement copies of missing materials and processing supplies.

Understanding Funds in Your Library

  • Know your library’s current budget and which sources of funding you rely on.
  • Learn about your district General Fund Allocation from the Chancellor's office apportionment reports.
  • See the college / district Quarterly Lottery Apportionments. Note: the fourth quarter report gives the full year. Reports are by county and you will need to search your college district name in the excel file.
  • Review the Consortium’s annual participation report (2019) to see how your college compares in terms of electronic resource expenditures. Note that these figures reflect consortium spending only, not direct purchases.
  • Based on the information covered in this Tool Kit, identify potential new funding sources for your library.
  • Advocate for resources based on the guidelines for each funding source and the mission of your college and library.