March 2011 Report

Library Director’s Report-March 2011

The state budget as it currently stands, after taking a 12 billion dollar reduction, reduced funding to the State Library by 50%. The Governor recommended taking all of the funds, but aggressive lobbying from community and the profession, convinced legislators to keep some of the funds. Although this still reduces revenue we receive from the state, it may stave off library jurisdictions charging for non-resident use, and dismantling the cooperative agreements California libraries share. The other shoe may drop, however, if revenue extensions are not agreed upon in Sacramento, and further cuts are necessitated.

Longtime Project READ teen tutor, Hannah Hamley, was honored with the Outstanding Student Award and a $10,000 scholarship in recognition of her dedication to Project READ’s KIP program and volunteerism in general. At the awards ceremony, Hannah spoke eloquently of her tutoring experience in the KIP program and even granted Project READ the $500 stipend provided by the Sequoia Awards to an organization of her choice saying, “Project READ is where I first volunteered. I think the KIP program is so important because it teaches youth from the community how to do community service.”

Our on-going major project, the conversion to a new materials handling system is progressing. When completed in 2012, this new system will make handling our three million items that are in circulation per year, much more efficient and effective—for staff and customers. We will cut over to the new system at the Shores Library first to work out bugs, before we go live at the other libraries. Staff is working extremely hard on this complex and work-intensive project, along with delivering our regular award-winning library services and programs.

The month of March saw two Family Author Nights, the very successful collaboration between the library and schools, made possible by generous funding from the Friends of the Library.

  • Over a hundred students and their families came to Selby Lane School to hear local illustrator Elizabeth Gomez. In a bilingual presentation, Elizabeth delighted the kids by showing slides of herself as a girl in Mexico and talking about the joys of creativity. At the same time, she was able to reach straight to the parents to talk about the importance of education and family support for students. Her own parents were poor and struggled, she said, but they believed so much in the power of  education that they not only sent their five children all the way through college, but Elizabeth’s mother, who had only a 4th grade education, decided to finish grade school, high school, and finally college! It was a powerful message, charmingly delivered.
  • People just kept coming the following night at Fair Oaks school until there were well over 260 in attendance. Among the crowd were eleven teachers, our biggest showing ever. The Teachers’ Council had come up with a great idea: They decided not to hand out the giveaway books that are part of every Family Author Night until the night of the program. Instead, each teacher read the book aloud to his or her students – first, without showing the pictures. After the students had drawn pictures of their own, the teachers re-read the story, this time showing the pictures. The kids were primed with excitement to come and meet the illustrator. We will see if this approach can transfer to other schools – it takes lots of commitment and support from teachers, but had great results at Fair Oaks!
  • Speaking of support, the program has received a great deal thanks to Library Board members Reina Barragan, who is volunteering at all the programs, and from Library Board member Diane Belknap who dropped by Selby Lane to check out the excitement. We were also very happy that Friends of the Library member Mary Scavarda was able to make it to Fair Oaks so she could see for herself all the benefits of the outreach that the Friends so generously fund. And that’s not all: The Friends are funding a SEVENTH Family Author Night this year. There are four Family Author Nights to come: April 6 at Taft, April 7 at Garfield, April 28 at Hawes, and the new addition, John Gill on May 12.
  • In addition giving each child a copy of the book and the presentation, audiences are treated to a book sale, with proceeds going to the Friends, a raffle (a popular, if chaotic, part of the evening), and they have a chance to get a library card, though most folks already have one! None of this would be possible without the hard work of staff that plan and help with these events.

One of the pleasures of this job is that even in these adverse times, we continue to do great things! Over 1,000 kindergartners, their siblings and parents made this year’s KinderCard SuperSaturday the best ever! There were happy kindergartners everywhere, and we do mean everywhere. This initiative, now in its 5th year, reached 1,680 kindergartners in 56 classrooms and at 19 schools–all visited by a librarian–with some obviously stunningly effective outreach. 500 new cards were issued, and many others were updated. Getting a library card, especially your first one, is a very important step in being part of the community–it’s really a very powerful community building tool. Here is one comment from a parent who took the time to email me:

My daughters LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this library event. My oldest was so excited to get her library card that day and she cherishes it. We go every week and pick out new books and videos and now she proudly checks the books out herself with her own card. We love living in RWC and we really love the library!

The Saturday event itself was a zoo! There were so many kids here we quickly moved the puppet show to the Community Room and added several impromptu story times; at the accounts desk, thirty new library cards for older children and parents were given out per hour; there were lots of folks from the Shores and from the private schools; the Paws For Tales dogs Ella and Annie listened to kids read them stories, and enjoyed every minute of it; Chiquy Boom did an impromptu training of our teen volunteers who are going to make balloon animals next year; there were only 11 helium balloons that got away and are bouncing around the ceilings; Clifford the Big Red Dog only made a few kids cry; none of the boy scouts wearing the Clifford costume passed out. None of the circ staff passed out.

Our Fair Oaks Library continues to provide an array of programs and classes to meet a very diverse neighborhood’s needs. Last month 1,200 folks either attended training in our new language learning software, a St. Patrick’s Day program, Stories on Demand, Paws for Tales (where kids read to dogs!), our regular storytimes and many visits from local schools.

The contract between the Fox Theatre and all libraries in San Mateo County for the venue to hold the One Book, One Community’s kick-off event at the Fox has been signed, with author Mary Roach as the headliner. One of our community partners will be the first Bay Area Science Festival, funded by the National Science Foundation:

On Saturday, March 19, we had our first Volunteer Library Clean-up Day. The Redwood City neighborhood survey identified that people are more likely to volunteer for short term volunteer opportunities than longer term commitments. With this in mind, we have begun a quarterly Library Clean-up volunteer program. The majority of our current volunteers enter into a long term commitment at the library, so it is great we are offering other type of volunteer opportunities. At Downtown, we had ten volunteers attend. Two volunteers were scheduled to help out at Redwood Shores. As we all know, the amount of work it takes to run a library is enormous. There are so many little things that we just don’t have time to get to on a daily basis. Every helping hand helps, and volunteers are a big part of our success as an organization. I am so grateful to the people in our community who give back their invaluable time.

Although budgets are tight, staff is still participating in our city/county training opportunities, especially our leadership programs. It is very important to identify and support those staff for succession planning.

Learning Center, Teen Center and Project READ Report

We are serving more teens each month!

Ø  Total Individual Teens: 240 teens

Ø  Average afterschool attendance: 50 teens

Ø  One of our teens came to the library 27 out of 27 days the library was open in February!

Ø  Regulars (came at least once a week or 4 times): 56 teens

Ø  Teen Volunteers: 23 teen volunteers completed a total of 96 ¾ hours

Teen Programs: In the teen center in the month of February teens created valentines, including some for the Friends of the Library to thank them for funding programs, teens enjoyed decorating cupcakes, they sang love songs at our Karaoke event, they watched romance movies all week long, and they created love messages for the wall. March in the teen center saw the creation of Mardi Gras masks and origami mobiles.  During the Mardi Gras party teens were decorated with bead necklaces, they enjoyed listening to Zydeco music, they answered trivia questions and they greedily ate a three layered cake designed by one of our teen center staff.  The teen who found the baby in the cake was crowned king of Mardi Gras and later gave out spicy chips to his loyal subjects.  On St. Patrick’s Day teens were delighted to eat rice crispy treats, played hot potato, enjoyed a rousing trivia game and challenged each other to potato sack races.  In addition, teen were asked what they would wish for if they came across a leprechaun and here are their responses: to be invincible, to be rich, to be superman, to have a better job, to have a fulfilling art career, world peace, to have my own car, to be a billionaire, to be at a higher level in Runescape, to fly (3), to make every shot in basketball, world domination (2), to become a singer, to attend metal fest, to teleport, 3 more wishes, to get a degree, to stop time, and to pass my classes.

A family from our teen center is currently living in a shelter in San Mateo but still attending school down in Redwood City.  Rather than going home right away they are coming to the teen center and finding comfort and support to complete their homework and be with friends before returning to the shelter in the evening.

Project READ – Hands On Learning for Kids In Partnership Families (KIP)

During the early dismissal week at Fair Oaks Elementary, 72 KIP students and tutors as well as 10 moms, aunties, and little siblings ventured outside of the neighborhood on field trips to the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose.  There, students and families enjoyed hands-on fun including a jewelry and accessory design art workshop, fire truck and ambulance exploration, water play and face painting.  One highlight of this year’s trip was the new imagination station exhibit stocked full of large foam blocks where students got to put their spatial reasoning and creativity to the test.  We discovered that we have several budding architects and designers among our KIP students and tutors!!

KIP Story Hour Celebration at Fair Oaks Community Library

Daylight savings came just in time for our spring celebration at this month’s story hour!  Over 75 students, tutors and family members came to kick off the extra hour of light with one of our KIP favorites, Andy Z. The whole crowd was up and moving throughout the library in time to Andy’s music and songs!  Families also enjoyed receiving the monthly family book, And to Think We Thought We Would Never Be Friends.  Participants finished the evening with choosing additional books for the home library and making musical instruments from household materials to celebrate the beginning of spring.

On-going KIP Tutoring, Training and Workshops

Throughout the month of March, 110 KIP learners and tutors continued to meet at the Redwood City Public Library.  These pairs work on reading and language skills, homework and library skills.  Our teen and preteen tutors continue to receive on-going trainings and workshops.  This month these topics included:

  • Movie making – capturing the KIP tutoring experience
  • Conflict resolution – understanding needs and finding solutions
  • Using learning centers that build phonemic awareness, letter knowledge and beginning phonics understanding for beginning readers
  • How to individualize a tutoring session to meet a learner’s specific needs and goals (using information from the learner’s interview and assessment to tailor tutoring sessions)

Project READ Adult Literacy Programs

Inmate Adult Literacy –

This month Project READ, in collaboration with Peacemakers’ Alliance, completed a 6-month small group pilot with 5 male prisoners.  The goal of the small group was to build critical literacy and nonviolent communication skills as well as create community inside a correctional setting.  English was a second language for one man in the class; the other four were native speakers.  The ESL learner initially assessed at a 1.0, and the four other men assessed between levels 3.5 and 4.5.  After 72 hours of small group instruction over 6 months, the average growth per learner was 5.6 levels!  One learner increased from a level 4.0 to a level 11.0!  The four native speakers are now at literacy levels that will allow them to successfully complete community college and college level classes!  The English as a second language learner now reads and comprehends at a level 5.0!

To develop creative writing and expressive language skills was another goal of the group.  All 5 learners met this goal.  Each of the men wrote several poems and journal entries over the past 6 months.  In addition, each person wrote a speech to be used when we film an educational video over the next few months.  In general confidence levels about reading and writing have improved greatly.  Communication skills, critical thinking, receptive language, and the ability to successfully work in a group have all increased as well.

Two inmate learners passed GED tests with flying colors.  One learner passed two in the same day, scoring over 500 on both!  These two men completed the Fathers and Families class at the end of 2010 and now are able to read storybooks and send the recorded stories home to their children.

Project READ Adult Literacy for Community Learners

One particular tutor has gotten especially creative this month.  He truly embraced the Project READ’s learner-center, goal-oriented approach.  This month, the pair worked on comprehension by reading and understanding the learner’s benefit package from work.  The learner is interested in geography; so the tutor brought a U.S. puzzle that he worked on with his grandchildren.  The learner can now put the puzzle together in less than 5 minutes!

Another adult learner finished reading her first library book.  She checked out House on Mango Street.  She is very enthusiastic about reading chapter books on her own and has since checked out another book by the same author, Sandra Cisneros!

Families for Literacy (FFL)

Project READ is making a concerted effort to increase learner – tutor matches over the next couple months for those parents of children under 5 seeking literacy skill improvement.  Family Literacy Instructional Center numbers have increased this year.  There currently is a stronger need for literacy improvement in families. The past two months, 6 new families have joined Project READ and been matched one-on-one with a newly trained tutor! With these matches we not only are improving the literacy needs of our parents but also help their young children as well, as the parents practice their reading and bringing books to build their home libraries.  Parents are also mentored through our monthly story hours.

Family Literacy Instructional Center (FLIC) our drop in tutoring center for learners on our waiting lists and for those between tutoring sessions

March was a consistently busy month at FLIC. We welcomed three new community tutors and graduated new teen and pre-teen tutors. One of our new teen tutors is part of a long-standing Project READ family and continues to meet with her tutor. When she completes her own work, she happily puts on her tutor lanyard and works with our youngest learners. It is rewarding to see our own learners taking on a tutoring/mentoring role and building confidence within them. This month our youth, adults and families logged in over 900 drop-in hours and close to 250 computer aided learning hours.

Project READ – Story Hours

In our March Story Hour we celebrated Friendship Month by distributing a beautiful hardbound book to our families that focused on community and friendship through music. We embraced the theme of community and music by making musical instruments with household products and creating friendship bracelets for friends and family. Over 85 family and friends helped us celebrate. Chuck Ashton led the night with his musical performance and mentored parents and tutor alike in the methods of not only reading to a child, but also making the story come alive! Local Starbuck stores volunteered their time and hot chocolate—a hit with the kids and parents too! Hands on Bay Area volunteers (HOBA) brought 6 new volunteers to help the children make their crafts. It was a successful event and lots of fun too!!


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