Last Thursday, April 25, the Santa Barbara Public Library and its board hosted a “State of the Library” presentation, an event that discussed the current state of the library system, revealed places where improvement is needed in the future, highlighted some goals for the coming year, and fielded comments from the public. The system, which is overseen by a board appointed by the City of Santa Barbara, included two city libraries and six branch libraries that are operated through contracts with the County of Santa Barbara and City of Goleta.
For starters, library director Irene Macias noted that the system has much to be proud of. Despite recent budget cuts, the library still operates at full force, with 84,299 items checked out and 66,540 visitors between July 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013. Circulation rates have been steadily increasing since 2001, debunking the popular belief that libraries are becoming increasingly obsolete because of new age media.
Nonetheless, the library is increasing efforts to narrow the digital divide by offering a variety of services that aim to promote a tech-savvy community. Free services like technology assistance provided by the reference staff cover everything from downloading ebooks to working a computer mouse, while adult literacy programs and children’s learning computers allow people of all ages to keep up with technological trends.
The library is also going to benefit this year from a “wish list” program, which allows the public as well as library staff members to request items that had not been budgeted for, hopefully nudging administrators and donors who support the library in the desired directions. For instance, Macias noted, the library recently received $50,000 in donations for an improved psychology and spirituality section.
The year is going to bring some exciting changes as well. The board recently received approval on a final design for a library plaza outside the central library on East Anapamu street. The plaza will showcase a large reflection pool and outside seating and will improve upon the design of the original plaza that was taken down. Board and staff members are enthusiastically anticipating renovations after the design was given the go-ahead.
The board also informed the public of a major reconstruction of the children’s wing, a project that will expand the area from 1,500 square feet to 6,000 square feet. Board members are thrilled with the progress to the design, which will include new amenities such as large family restrooms, children’s computer sections, a fuller catalog, and a large tropical fish tank. Board chairman Eric Friedman discussed how “Literacy is one of the most important benchmarks of a child’s development,” explained board chariman Eric Friedman. “A third grade reading level is indicative of how a child will be in 10 years, or in high school.”
Alongside the plans for reconstruction, the Santa Barbara County Library System has some operational goals as well. It hopes to have 812,000 items in circulation by 2014 with 80 percent being from self-checkout kiosks. Digitizing historical photographs and documents will also be a priority in order to preserve regional culture.
The board intends to keep the public informed of library undertakings and improvements by making such fiscal and informational presentations annually. See SBPLibrary.org.