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‘State of the Library’ Previews a More Modern Santa Barbara Library System

Changes to operations, organization, and the roles of its staff will allow libraries to better address patrons' needs, says the system’s director

Many changes — both physical and operational — are planned as part of a transformation of the Santa Barbara Public Library System.
Many changes — both physical and operational — are planned as part of a transformation of the Santa Barbara Public Library System.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Public Library System is undergoing a forward-looking transformation to meet the needs of modern library-goers.

That was the theme at this year’s "State of the Library," which was presented at Tuesday’s Library Board meeting at the Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara.

In an address that presented a wide-ranging vision for the coming year, Library Director Jessica Cadiente discussed the changing nature and needs of a modern library, and laid out how the nine-library system will embrace them.

“The library is evolving into a platform of learning, innovation, and creativity,” she said.

“The traditional way of looking at how the library delivers quality service to the community has changed. If our understanding of the library’s value is based solely on getting information in a traditional or digital platform, then the long-term health of our library is at risk.”

Cadiente said that greater customer self-service for tasks like checking out books, as well as a new mobile app that provides all the libraries’ information and services at customers’ fingertips, will allow library staff to focus more on visitor- and program-oriented responsibilities.

The evolving print-versus-digital paradigm, the rise of “pocket technology,” and 24/7 access to library materials are all trends driving the library’s operational changes, said Eastside Library Supervisor Marivel Zambrano-Esparza in a follow-up presentation.

“We’re breaking traditions,” said Cadiente. “Today’s library is continually changing to meet the demands of our community. They are no longer quiet; they are no longer books-only. We are no longer passive. You no longer have to come to the library to use and benefit from us. The library is anywhere you are.”

Among the library system’s goals for the coming year are the expansion of programming for customers over 50, and new services and spaces for teenagers.

Work-space remodeling will be aimed at facilitating a more collaborative work environment and accommodating a more digital-based library structure.

Cadiente reviewed numerous capital projects that the Central Library is preparing for, many of which will serve the modern vision she laid out.

Automated materials handling, for instance, will allow employees to turn more of their attention to “value-oriented" work, like that relating to customer service, youth classes, and new programming including the free early literacy “Baby and Me Storytime” program.

Library staff will also undergo more comprehensive training that will enable customer interactions to go from “transactional to relational,” Cadiente said.

The Central Library will start construction in early fall of a new access point on the building’s south side that better aligns with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, said Cadiente. The Library Board will begin looking for funding for the renovation of the Central Library’s plaza and has settled on a new design for it.

Cadiente also reviewed the library’s customer and budget statistics, saying that over 1.2 million people visited the system last year, with more than 25,000 volunteer hours logged. The library currently offers 182 community education programs, she said.

The library has two broad governmental funding sources: the $5.35 million General Fund from the city of Santa Barbara, which makes up 69 percent of the pie, and a $2.4 million county fund, which accounts for 31 percent. The library’s overall revenues are down slightly from last year, she said, due to lower donations and grants.

Sixty-nine percent of the library’s budget goes to staffing costs, Cadiente said, which is vital to keeping up the system’s customer- and program-oriented services.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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