April 2011 Report

Library Director’s Report- April 2011

A great quote from Michael Cart from his longer article (attached below) on community:

“To me public libraries are a place of light in the darkness, of warmth in the cold, of shelter in the storm, a necessary place of refuge and sanctuary, of a center that holds when things are falling apart, a place of unfettered access to information in its myriad varieties of form and format, a place of equalizing opportunity, a bridge across the digital and other divides, a community, and, yes, a front porch large enough for all Americans, a front porch free to all, a front porch where all can congregate, commune, and discover a common humanity.”

The Santa Clara County Library System has decided to charge non-residents (e.g.San Joseresidents) an annual fee to use the library.Californiafor years has had universal borrowing privileges to allow anyCaliforniaresident to use any public library in the state. To balance out funding inequities, the State Library funded those libraries that had more use from customers outside their jurisdiction (the formula is based on items lent vs. items borrowed).Redwood Cityis a net lender, and we bring in over $200,000 annually. At least half of this funding was eliminated in the proposed State budget, with the high likelihood that the all of it could be gone. One reason forSanta Clara’s new fee is to recoup costs, but the more important strategy is to discourage use which will free up more resources for its own customers. This sets a new precedent in these troubling times, and could result in individual jurisdictions following suit. The San Jose Mercury News article is at the end of this report.

The Gran Kermes, a family-oriented festival, held on Saturday, April 9, in the parking lot adjacent to the Fair Oaks Library drew approximately 500 children and adults. The outdoor festival, hosted by the Redwood City Library Foundation and the Latino Community Council of Redwood City, raised funds for children’s books for the Fair Oaks Library. The event featured music, dance and drama presentations, many games and crafts for children, food booths, and opportunities to donate to the children’s book campaign.  Event sponsors, representing a wide range of businesses and non-profit groups, helped make the event financially successful and an effective community building event.

Library staff hosted a volunteer recognition party for our hardworking Friends of the Library, our Traveling Storytimers and our outreach volunteers. It was announced that Tom Cooper’s name (who recently passed away) will be engraved on the Ursula Ferguson Volunteer Award. Flowers were given out to several volunteers that have been with the Traveling Storytime program for over 10 years and special recognition went to a few Friends who have been here for 25 years, with one very special award to our oldest volunteer who is 93 years old! Library Board Chair, Reina Barragan, spoke and thanked the volunteers for their hard work.

April saw three more Family Author Nights in the Schools, at Taft, Garfield, and Hawes. Hundreds of school kids and their families were treated to Elizabeth Gomez’s wonderful bilingual presentation about the satisfactions of art, education, and family, accompanied by her vibrant artwork. Folks also had a chance to buy used books from the Friends, and get new or replacement library cards, something 46 people took advantage of. One more FAN to go, at John Gill on May 12. And, Family Author Nights are getting famous.Elizabethwas contacted by a library system inMedford,Oregonand asked to give the “same great presentation” she’s been doing inRedwood City. She doesn’t know how they found out about it, but clearly word gets out about something good.

85 people came to view the movie “Papers” the story of undocumented youth. Feedback from the audience was extremely positive. People stayed after to talk with the task force members to learn more about what they can do locally. This event was a joint effort between the Sequoia High School Dream Club and the Immigrant Youth Task Force—part of Redwood City 2020. 

Staff and library teens participated in the Redwood City Teens in Action Showcase, which celebrated the positive and change-making efforts of young people in ourRedwood CityandNorth Fair Oakscommunity. Business and community leaders, educators, families, teens, service providers, elected officials and anyone who works or lives in our community attended to network, and share. Families walking past the Redwood City Courthouse were drawn in by a DJ as well as break-dancers to enjoy the fun and learn about the great work teens are doing inRedwood City. TheTeenCentervolunteers talked with community members about the library’sTeenCenter, the activities they do at the Center, and the many ways they volunteer in the many library programs. One of the volunteers was so enthusiastic about talking with the public that he walked around and offered the Redwood City Public Library promotional Frisbees to attendees and spoke to them about the Library and theTeenCenter. Staff and the teen volunteers also talked with many families about the different types of programs the library has to offer, specifically: Project Read, the Summer Reading Club, theTeenCenter, Traveling Story Time, adult programs and the many other children programs offered each week at the library. It was a great event attended by a diverse crowd of people who came to celebrate and thank our teens!

Amazon and OverDrive announced the Kindle Library Lending program, which enable Kindle customers to borrow and eBooks from our library. This will be launched later this year.

Earlier this year President Obama signed a bill eliminatingReadingis Fundamental’s funding – putting in real jeopardy our ability to provide thousands of free books to our Families in Project READ. We used these funds and in-kind books to solicit additional funds from our corporate sponsors. We remain hopeful that we can creatively support those children and families in the greatest need with books and literacy resources for many years to come.

Fair Oaks Branch Library’s programs were very well attended this past month: over 1,000 folks came to the library for storytimes, class visits, parenting classes, and special programs.

What do Elvis impersonators, hula dancers, paper airplane folders, and stand-up comedians have in common? They are all acts that have graced the “stage” of the Kids’ Talent Show at the Redwood City Public Library this past month! For the last 20 years, Children’s Librarians have been giving kids the opportunity to have their 3 minutes of fame in the annual show. Over the years more than 600 kids have shown off their quite varied talents. This year’s kids showed off their stuff by playing a musical instrument or singing or dancing. Twirling batons, pratfalls and storytelling filled out the program.

Watch a great video by Stacie Chan of the Redwood City Patch:


RCPL Teen Center

Staff is gathering High School summer reading lists so our library will be ready for our teens reading assignments.


  • Total individual teens visiting the center: 231 teens
  • Average daily attendance after school: 48 teens
  • Regulars (came at least once a week or 4 times): 62 teens
  • Teen Volunteers: 39 teen volunteers completed a total of 235 hours

In April we played “Find the Bunny” whereby the first teen to spot the tiny stuffed bunny put their name on the calendar. The teen who finds the bunny the most often during the month will win a prize. To celebrate Earth Days teens decorated flower pots and planted seeds. In celebration of Easter the teens created a Bunny Piñata and took part in an Easter Egg Hunt. At the end of the month teen participated inBattleof the Sexes—Revenge, in which we pit the boys versus the girls to see who reigned supreme. In a collaborative effort with Redwood City 2020, the Immigrant Youth Task force and the Sequoia High School Dream Club, the library hosted “Papers” a documentary about undocumented youth in the community and the struggles they face.  Finally, teen center volunteers participated in the Teens in Action Showcase at the Redwood City Courthouse Square.

Project READ Kids in Partnership (KIP) Tutors Head Across the Bay for a College Trip

Earlier this school year, KIP tutors were polled on colleges they would like to visit.  Popular consensus selected UC Berkeley as the destination of choice. During spring break this month, 17 tutors boarded the bus and headed across the bay to tour UC Berkeley and had a question answer period with current students and recent grads. A KIP mom also approached us saying that she had always heard of Berkeley, but had never had the opportunity to go. She arranged childcare for her younger children and came along for the tour!

KIP Story Hour Celebration at Fair Oaks Community Library

During spring break, over 65 KIP learners, tutors and families came together at the monthly KIP Story Hour Celebration. This month, participants enjoyed an enchanting performance by puppeteer, Nick Barrone. The audience was especially amazed by his behind-the-scenes look at how a one-man show can involve so many characters and special effects! We were especially honored to welcome special guests and volunteers from De Anza College. These five college students assisted with Earth-Day-themed crafts and a special book give away of Bugs, Bugs, Bugs.

On-going KIP Tutoring, Training and Workshops

Meanwhile, back at the library, 110 KIP learners and tutors continued to meet to work on homework, reading and language development, and library skills. 

Our teen and preteen tutors continued to receive on-going trainings and workshops.  During April, these topics included:

  • Movie making – capturing the KIP tutoring experience – finalize and wrap up!
  • Strategies for reviewing place value
  • Games that incorporate money sense
  • How to create and play reading comprehension games
  • Painting and using objects to create texture, inspired by Eric Carle’s artwork
  • Brainstorming individualized awards/appreciations for learners

Project READ’s Adult Literacy Program

Thanks to the generous donations received this year we were able to help a long-time learner get her first pair of prescription glasses. For the past 5 years she’s been using reading glasses, but recently told her tutor that she gets headaches and dreads having to read because her eyes hurt so much. Without vision insurance she’s been unable to get glasses or have an eye exam. Now for the first time in years, she’s able to see!!  Progressive lenses have become her new best friend. This same learner, whose first language is Spanish, recently started teaching English literacy classes on a volunteer basis to parents at her children’s school. The participants in the class have little to no English skills. She’s been doing so well that the school has now offered to pay her to continue teaching the class.

Another woman was brought to tears of happiness after her re-assessment. She increased 2.5 reading levels. She’s been in the U.S. for almost 40 years and had not been able to functionally read or write. She is unable to read or write in her primary language. 

Since starting with her tutor 2 years ago, she says things have been going “really good” and her skills have improved tremendously. She now writes brief emails with simple text.  She also is able to read and write more at work. “At work everyone around can tell. Now that her skills have improved so much, she’s gotten a promotion at her job. My supervisors are very happy.”  She went on to say, “I wish other people could come and share in this with me. Thank God for Project READ!”

Project READ Adult-Inmate

Seven men began participating in Poetry Small Group this month. The class marks the first formal poetry instruction and practice for the participants. Several of the men write hip-hop and rap songs but were not familiar with the various styles and types of poetry. These poetry exercises are helping to prepare the inmates for the writing portion of their GED test and they are also able to share their poetry with their children and family. After each group of new poets graduate they are able to submit their favorite poem to the Project READ Poetry Graduation Book.

Adult-Inmate Families for Literacy

13 men completed the Fathers & Families in Literacy small group.  We recorded each of the men reading a book. We sent the CD recording and a new copy of the book to the children’s homes, along with a personalized message each father wrote for his child. 

A learner who improved 3.5 reading levels in 4 months passed 2 GED tests this month. Before starting with Project READ, he was unable to pass any of the 5 subject-area tests. Now, he’s passed two and scored extra points on both.

Starbucks Community Partner of Project READ

We are so thrilled to have our local Starbucks branches contribute to Project READ in various ways from tutoring, donating supplies and offering hot chocolate to our families each month at Story Hour. This month the president of Starbucks came to the Bay Area and awarded one of our Starbucks tutors and volunteers with a Community Service Award for her work with Project READ.  Additionally, Project READ received an $800 grant for the community hours our volunteer Kelsey has worked with us. Starbucks also recently recognized Project READ in their monthly bulletin. We are extremely grateful and appreciative of our special relationship with our local and now national Starbucks partners. Thank you Starbucks!

Project READ’s Families for Literacy Story hour

April brought in a lot of families and friends to Story Hour. We celebrated Earth Day, Easter and prepared for Mother’s Day this past month, with recycled crafts that the families could give as gifts. Chuck Ashton performed his famed “Yuck,” as well as a puppet show. Hands on Bay Area volunteers (HOBA) came to volunteer again this month—a huge help to us! Over 100 learners and their families shared in this fun-filled event!

Project READ’s Family Literacy Instructional Center (FLIC):

This month our students have been working very hard preparing for their STAR tests. Many of our students and tutors worked together even over the break preparing for the California State Test. As a much deserved study break our youth are helping us prepare for our annual BBQ by creating crafts. After they complete a craft project focused around the author Eric Carle, they are given the opportunity to “donate” their creation to Project READ, so that we can display their art at the BBQ.  It is a great project to help build community awareness and the importance of giving back.

We have welcomed several new families to FLIC this month as well as new community and teen tutors. We are always excited to have more people join our community. One of our Preteen tutors took on the role of welcoming a new community tutor, showing our adult tutor the ropes, explaining how our computers work and making the new tutor feel welcome. 

Santa Clara County Library system to begin $80 annual fee for non-residents

By Lisa Fernandez

Posted: 05/04/2011 07:33:19 AM PDT

The best part about public libraries is they’re free.

But starting July 1, thousands of South Bay residents will have to shell out $80 a year to check out books from libraries run by Santa Clara County.

Library cards will remain free for people who live in the cities served by county libraries. But if you live in Los Gatos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara or Sunnyvale, you’ll have to pay to get a county library card — or hope your own city library has enough Hemingway and Harry Potter.

“Of course, people aren’t going to like this,” Santa Clara County Librarian Melinda Cervantes said. “It’s very complex. And it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy.”

Facing a state funding cut, the 11-member Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority Board approved the fee — a rarity among area libraries that is setting off a bit of a library border war. And it’s already getting some negative reviews from patrons who consider the library up the street theirs — even if it happens to be in the town next-door.

San Jose resident Bruce Turenne nearly dropped the stack of DVDs he had just checked out at the Campbell library Tuesday when told of the new fee.

“I hate the San Jose Library, and I like the county libraries so much more. They have a collection (at Campbell), these guys have stuff,” said Turenne, a purchasing manager between jobs who described the shelves at San Jose as bare. “Money is pretty tight right now.”

State money lost

Since 1988, the state has offered a subsidy of about 30 cents for each transaction when nonresidents use county libraries. But the governor’s proposed budget would eliminate all state funding for public libraries, about a $1.3 million reduction in revenue for the county system in the next fiscal year.

There are eight library branches within the county system, which serves residents of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and the unincorporated areas of the county.

But plenty of library users would be on the hook for the $80 fee: Out of the 356,107 county library card holders, 153,548 — or 43 percent — live outside the library district. The percentage is greater for individual branches. For example, 56 percent of the people who use the Campbell library live outside the district, including 29 percent from San Jose.

“I’d like to see it free, but if I could afford the $80, I’d contribute,” said San Jose resident Bill Caravalho, a technical support specialist who uses the Campbell library to search for jobs and fill out applications. “I think they’re a great resource.”

Nonresidents decide to use the county system for a variety of reasons, sometimes because the branch is closer to their house than their own city library. But one important reason is the county branch libraries are open between five and seven days a week. San Jose libraries are open four to four-and-a-half days a week. There is now a proposal to cut those San Jose branch library hours to three days a week.

As far as Cervantes knows, Santa Clara County will become among the few library systems in the state to charge for nonresidents, although she said San Leandro and Huntington Beach have long charged for their cards. Los Gatos and Monterey used to charge for cards, but don’t any longer.

The county decision will likely mean a drop in usage for its libraries and a possible increase at city libraries, such as the ones in San Jose and Sunnyvale.

Reciprocal fees considered

Head librarians in those cities said they are now considering charging residents from the county library district to use their libraries because of the county system’s decision to pull out of a Bay Area library cooperative called the Pacific Library Partnership.

“We haven’t really had time to adjust to this,” said Mary Nacu, assistant library director for San Jose.

Both she and Lisa Rosenblum, director of library and community services in Sunnyvale, said many of their library customers also have county library cards. They suspect that they won’t necessarily get new patrons, but that their current patrons will simply take out more books.

“We welcome the business,” Rosenblum said.

Fewer library patrons means the county system will be able to save money on book purchases and other expenses. And they aren’t planning on getting rich off the new fee.

Cervantes said the county system hopes to raise about $250,000 annually from the new charges, realizing that few people will probably decide to pay the $80 annual charge.

“We’ll be lucky to get 2 percent,” Cervantes said.

Opinion: Young readers can help sustain the power of libraries

By Vikram Kanth

Special to the Mercury News

Posted: 04/17/2011 08:00:00 PM PDT

When I was a kid, I had two dreams. One was to become a senator; the other was to be able to reach the top bookshelf at my local library. I used to be able to measure my growth based on the number of times that I needed to ask someone for help to reach a book. Although I am still quite a few years away from the first goal, I can now reach the highest bookshelf. Little did I realize then that the library would be integral to my personal growth.

Now libraries are an endangered species because of budget cuts. But teenagers like me can help to protect them, both by raising money for them and by raising our voices to support them.

My first visit to a library was when I was 60 days old. Once my parents, as new immigrants, learned about library services for children, especially story times, I became a regular visitor. I still see some of the librarians who did those story times, and they laugh at how energetic I was. The only thing that calmed me down was a book.

I became one of those kids who visited the library after school. I still remember a painting that fascinated me: an open book with all the words flying off the page in a spiral. When I looked at it, I could see myself diving into the world of books and being spun in all different directions until coming to rest in front of a door. On the other side was a paradise of knowledge and discovery.

The library became a sanctuary to me, but the idea of libraries as a sanctuary to everyone did not strike me until I worked at the Calabazas Library in the summer of 2006. The variety of visitors of all ages astounded me. Some came to pick up free books and movies, others to use the Internet, still others to have a meeting place.

The library is the one free community resource that provides a platform for diverse ideas in a nonjudgmental way. It is a significant symbol of our civilization: This is why we need to mourn the destruction of the ancient Library of Alexandria, the recent demolition of the Sarajevo National Library and the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad. We should rejoice that during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, some librarians risked their lives to save rare books by burying them.

American libraries have not faced such extreme challenges. However, almost every time we face an economic challenge, libraries lose money first. I founded GROW (Give, Raise, Organize, Work), a teen-run nonprofit organization, to respond to this need.

Like many San Jose Public Library branches, the Calabazas Library was rebuilt with local bond funds. Unfortunately, they do not pay for furnishings or the materials in the library. To date, GROW has organized a concert and a teen gaming event attended by more than 400 people and has raised several thousand dollars for this cause.

Raising funds is only one aspect of this organization, however. To me, GROW represents the willingness of the West San Jose teen community to commit to building a resource that is truly a community center. We need to stand up for what we feel is important and make our opinions known.

We are the next generation. If we don’t get involved, we will see valuable institutions like libraries fall by the wayside. Twenty years from now, when another kid is struggling to reach the top shelf, there needs to be someone to give him a book and the guts to dream.

VIKRAM KANTH is a senior at Lynbrook High School and plans a career in law. He wrote this for this newspaper.

America’s Front Porch–The Public Library

Michael Cart

We have a community of interests; we exist to serve the same community, the youth of America who urgently need our help, our resources, our caring. And yet we, as professionals, too seldom communicate and too seldom cooperate. The building of this essential community can begin here where professionals begin their training. Throughout these remarks I have used the word “community” in a variety of contexts that, probably, imply a variety of meanings. “Community” is the kind of word that lends itself to that, I suppose. Most often I have used it to describe the library’s service population, its community of users, everyone who resides in its service area. But, of course, for members of cooperative systems, it might include the service populations of other library districts or jurisdictions. For libraries that deliver information and service electronically, it could describe an even larger and more geographically dispersed group. The dictionary’s first definition of community is “a group of people living in the same locality and under the same government.” But another is “a group of people having common interests” or even–a third–“society as a whole.” However we precisely define it, we have never had a more urgent need for it–a more urgent need to come together as a people to work cooperatively, as a community, to solve the economic, social, cultural, and political problems that I have outlined. To sew up the holes in the fabric of society, to bridge the divides that separate us as a people and visit inequities on opportunities and resources that we should have in common.

I applaud and echo Sarah Long’s call to action and commend Kathleen de la Pena McCook for offering, in her new book, a blueprint for library participation in community building. When I think of community, however, I always hearken back to the Logansport-Cass County, Indiana Public Library, my hometown library when I was a kid growing up in the Midwest decades ago. I have written a lot about that library because it was so important to me. Getting my first library card when I was seven provided my own first experience of civic engagement. Later, the library provided my first paid work opportunity when, at sixteen, I became a page. From the time I could read, it provided an introduction to a philosophy and an ideal expressed in the three words that I saw carved in limestone above the door every time I entered the library. The words were, simply, “Free To All.” Most personally, though, and thus, perhaps most importantly, for a kid like me who was–like so many other kids then and now–an outsider, the library provided the only place where I felt that I belonged. It provided my own personal community. And so what I thought of it then and now has come to describe my feelings about all libraries but especially about public libraries. To me they are a place of light in the darkness, of warmth in the cold, of shelter in the storm, a necessary place of refuge and sanctuary, of a center that holds when things are falling apart, a place of unfettered access to information in its myriad varieties of form and format, a place of equalizing opportunity, a bridge across the digital and other divides, a community, and, yes, a front porch large enough for all Americans, a front porch free to all, a front porch where all can congregate, commune, and discover a common humanity.


2 responses to “April 2011 Report

  1. Pingback: Announcing the Winner of the Great Librarian Write-out!! | PC Sweeney's Blog

  2. Came to this site to read about the prize-winning article by Vikram Kanth, but I think I read every word, and enjoyed knowing about your programs, people, ideas, policies, etc. Many thanks! I also hope someone tells Sarah Long and Kathleen McCook about their mentions in Michael Cart’s good article. Many thanks for an informative, even inspiring publication!

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