The ribbon was cut, speeches were made, and dozens of kids and adults surged into their favorite local library on Fairview Avenue on Sunday morning. The occasion was the official beginning to the independent Goleta Valley Public Library, separate from City of Santa Barbara control and on its own financially and administratively. Library Director Allison Gray seemed more than up to the task, talking animatedly about her plans for the future and her staff — none of whom hold library degrees but all of whom make up for it in time-earned knowledge and a talent for programming.
Goleta was granted a separate accreditation in the state library system in the fall of 2017 and in the shared library-materials syndicate, Black Gold, that covers San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The folks who use Goleta’s library are the greatest consumers of materials from Black Gold, said Gray, and Goleta’s budget for buying needed books and other items grew by $140,000: “We have such great support from the city and the council,” said Gray, “and from our volunteers.”
Faced with retagging 75,000 items with new Goleta bar codes, Gray recruited the library’s volunteers for the massive job. They finished well before the opening, spending a collective 3,000 hours — some coming in daily to put in an hour or two, said Gray: “They were our power volunteers.” During the retagging sessions, volunteers came across children’s books that they couldn’t resist reading aloud to each other. Sitting in her office next door, Gray said it was a sound that warmed her heart; she’d trained as a children’s librarian at SUNY Albany before running a library in Suffolk County and then coming to Goleta in 2008.
One of the items unique to Goleta library is a family pass to the MOXI children’s museum. With the museum’s support, up to two passes can be checked out for a week at a time, Gray explained, and now periodicals and magazines will stay in the library until the next issues arrive.
Gray also has a wish list she hopes to offer Goleta patrons, including a “Library of Things” that will allow the lending of the many craft and art tools used for library classes, such as SpongeBob-shaped cake pans and quilling or jewelry-making kits. She’d also like to lend home videographers and audio-tapers the necessary equipment to convert their old family VHS and audio tapes to DVD and CD.
Money is one of the reasons the library left the Santa Barbara system, threshing out a greater savings working with Goleta city staff and avoiding Santa Barbara’s rising administrative charges. Gray also noted that the Suffolk County electorate regularly votes in a library tax, currently $61 per head, where Santa Barbara County supervisors only allocate $7.80 from its General Fund. Buellton and Solvang are eager to join Goleta’s new Zone 4 library, and Montecito and Carpinteria have also expressed interest. Administering a new set of branches doesn’t seem to faze Gray, though she will have to find space to properly sort all the books and materials destined for other libraries that Black and Gold would deliver first to Goleta. Currently, library volunteers put in about 30 hours a week checking in shipments of books.
For a 15,000 square-foot library with an annual circulation of 600,000 items, said Gray, they should have about three times the staffers they have — currently 21 people altogether. One of the missing pieces at Goleta for several years has been the lack of a children’s librarian, never replaced after a retirement. The library known to be “family friendly” is actively searching, said Gray.
Goleta’s children aren’t neglected in the meantime, as the library programming is heavily kid-oriented, even including infants. One library assistant reads, rhymes, and sings with babies and parents: “I’ve seen her hold 40 babies’ attention before,” Gray said with hushed admiration for Nicole Lvoff. “We call her the Baby Whisperer.”