Library Director’s Report- August 2012
The State of California severely reduced funding to all public library literacy programs. Our Project READ program’s Kid in Partnership and other programs were at risk of having to reduce the number of participants. The Library Foundation has stepped up and will be fundraising to fill the funding gap this year, giving us time to find sustainable revenue or redeploy existing resources to keep the programs whole in the future. Because of our wonderful support groups like the Foundation, more than 500 teens and young children will continue to be engaged in intensive learning, tutoring and mentoring.
Project READ distributed 260 very special Back to School Backpacks to the community’s most needy kids and families, just before school started in August. These backpacks offered students a great help as the new school year started, and gave them some of the basic tools to lead them to school success. Each backpack contained a variety of items that are on a student’s back to school list, like paper, pencils, some books, some fun surprises, and more. The filled back to school backpacks are donated by a variety of agencies, including Redwood City. This is such a nice thing to do for these kids in need, and will really help them to get started the right way in the new school year!
An update on the progress we are making with the new Baby and Me at the Library program. We are applying for a grant to cover costs for an on-going annual program at all four libraries. The Friends have been asked fund the books we will be giving to participants to build a home library. The pilot program will start on Friday, October 5 in the Program Room. The pilot will run for six weeks. The winter session will begin in January. I am really excited about offering this new program to the families of Redwood City. All of the research that we have conducted for the grant proposal made it very clear that the earlier that we can expose young children to early literacy skills, the more likely they are to be successful readers. By involving the parents and caregivers in this instruction process insures a greater rate of success! The pilot program will involve twenty babies and their parents/caregivers.
The Summer Reading Club programs came to a rockin’ and rollin’ conclusion with zesty performances by local kids’ idol Andy Z. This summer the library offered its biggest slate of summer programs ever, eleven in all, continuing into August. Attendance records at each library were also shattered this year, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 people having shown up by the end of the series. It’s a good thing the gondolas at Schaberg had wheels this year and could be moved aside to accommodate the 200 people who jammed the place for Busy Bee Performing Dogs. The 200 people who crowded Fair Oaks for a glimpse of real wild animals with Wild Things had no such luck. Audience members who were a little leery about had no choice but to get up close with the lemur, magnificent great horned owl – and the alligator! Fortunately we can report that no kids were asked to volunteer as snacks during the Wild Things show. The quality and variety of this summer’s offerings were commented on by many happy parents, who clearly enjoyed the programs as much as their kids did. As always, all thanks go to the Friends of the Library, who support all our programming for children and families, and the Library Foundation, who supported our additional August events.
The library continues to be a community resource in new and novel ways. Last Saturday, what was originally thought to be a visit by a preschool group turned out to be a birthday party for a 3 year old and 7 of her friends and their families. The library provided a storytime, and the girls really wanted to know what happens to the books after you drop them into the return slot, so they got a behind-the-scenes tour of the check-in room. After the storytime and tour, the group continued their celebration on the back lawn, complete with lunch and cupcakes! Maybe we should add weddings to our roster of offerings. Somebody go get a minister’s license, quick!
Staff attended HooverCommunitySchool’s second annual, Nuestra Escuela: An Information Fair. We promoted library services to all families and passed flyers of the new extended day/early evening Family Learning Program. This program is a partnership of the Library with PD, Parks & Recreation, RWC2020 and HooverCommunitySchool.
Another outreach event was the 11th annual North Fair Oaks Festival. This festival is organized by San Mateo County and closes Middlefield road, between 2nd and 5th street in Redwood City and is attended by thousands of neighborhood residents. The festival provided a day of free live entertainment, arts and crafts, and information from community organizations. The Redwood City Public Library and the Library Foundation provided 2,500 bilingual books and book marks FREE to families that visited our booths!
An organization called Statestats.org worked closely with the ALA and IMLS to create this infographic about “Why support your local library?” Here is the infographic: http://www.statestats.org/support-your-local-library/
Redwood City Public Library has always been very innovative in library service. We pioneered our unique use of spaces for different uses and users, food and drink, a bookstore approach to the collection, self-service, volunteers, a de-emphasis on reference and an emphasis on youth and education, including family literacy. This article in an industry publication shows how the mainstream is catching up. Reference has not been a core service of Redwood City Public Library for years now except for helping our kids with homework assignments and specialized local history.
Julie Farnsworth, Director of Library Services of the Pleasanton Public Library, was asked to share their experience with:
The Pleasanton Public Library is a medium-sized City library with holdings of 212,000 items and annual circulation of 1.6 million located in an affluent East Bay suburb. Our building is undersize for our 73,000 population at 30,000 square feet – most of our neighboring libraries provide 1.0 square feet or better per capita while we offer .34 – while our foot traffic reaches a hearty half-million+ a year.
We’ve all read that our libraries need to change with the times, become more current, abandon Dewey, feature our role as a Third Place, and do more than warehouse books. We have also all seen a change in both reference questions and librarian search methods in response to the ubiquity, breadth and presumed authenticity of the Internet. We asked ourselves, if the public no longer uses reference and much book non-fiction and neither does the staff (although they very much wanted to keep it available in case they needed it someday), why are we housing them? Given our small building, shouldn’t we prioritize our services and thus our collection? Our answer was yes.
Over the last two years, we have greatly reduced our adult non-fiction collection and eliminated 99% of our reference collection in order to expand more popular collections and public seating. Starting in 2010, the Pleasanton Public Library functionally eliminated the adult reference collection – eliminating most books and minimizing those we kept in the circulating collection – and reduced the adult non-fiction collection by 34% from 47,438 to 31,521 items. There were only a couple of mild public complaints that ended within the week. In the physical space recovered, we have added 32 powered seats, which were instantly filled and almost never empty since. We also created more space for our ESL conversation groups, who have expanded greatly in response to the elimination of adult education in our local school districts. The building is much more open and better lit with the removal of many tall book stacks. Staff are by and large content with the change while some are thrilled.
In 2009, Yu Tao, the head of our adult services, her boss Sandy Silva and I met to discuss our concern about the disparity in turnover rates between adult non-fiction (2.12) and fiction (4.54), meaning that our fiction titles circulated twice as much per title as our non-fiction. We were continuously weeding fiction just to fit items on the shelves, whereas the dust on the non-fiction grew by the day.
Additionally, use of the reference collection by our librarians had plummeted (use by the public was never high).
We were also out of space and, despite our efforts to showcase the need for a new or expanded library, had to confront the fact that the economy meant that was out of reach for a good long time.
We are not a reference or archival library, focusing instead on community interests and children’s services. Why then were we dedicating so much space to reference and unused non-fiction? How could we get more space to move us toward the ‘third place’, community-developing new library world?
We were aware and admired the work of many libraries in replacing Dewey in their non-fiction with a more patron friendly format. However, we didn’t have the staffing in technical services to support such a change and knew anyway that we had a lot of items that wouldn’t circulate even in a friendlier format.
In observation of our reference librarians’ work, it was clear that they used the Internet for most reference questions, falling back to print works only occasionally and often unsuccessfully. Tao convinced her librarians to try putting the reference books on the regular non-fiction shelves. This would reduce public confusion over multiple locations for the same subject and perhaps draw more attention to the reference titles. We were concerned that we would frustrate the patrons by putting items on the regular shelves that they would not be allowed to check out, but we had almost no complaints. After a year, it was clear we also had no use. The reference titles were not of interest to the patrons, just as they had not been to the staff except as in-case-comfort.
In response to staff concern that the weeding might have disproportionate impact on individual subject areas, a systematic collection development cycle that addressed these areas was created and implemented by staff.
We weeded the reference collection again and made 99% of those items we kept in the circulating collection. We have a partner genealogy association that has kept several hundred items. Their items are all reference. We have kept our local high school yearbooks, some local government documents, about 50 career/test books and 30 investment books as reference. Our reference collection went from 7,467 items to under a hundred – exactly 99% reduction.
We now have space on the shelves for all our more popular collections and have faceout displays throughout the building. Circulation for the slimmed down collections is either the same as before or rising. The number of physical shelves required for the adult non-fiction has been cut in half; you may recall that we weeded only 34%, so the difference is that the items remaining spend most of their time outside the building.
To us, that means that they are the right items to retain.