[Noozhawk’s note: Second in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article.]
The Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation Board of Directors wants the community to know that the library of today is a far cry from the libraries your grandparents — or even your parents — grew up with.
There’s less shushing and more schmoozing as the Santa Barbara Public Library regularly hosts lively events, classes, Storytimes, festivals, films, lectures, fairs, music, workshops and more.
The diverse array makes the downtown library, at 40 E. Anapamu St., a true hub for the entire community.
And, with the foundation’s ongoing support, it offers much more than books. Best of all, the programs and services provided by the library are all free.
“The city funds the basics of operating the library, but to make our library one of the best in the country, we rely on private support that allows us to expand services beyond books and things people often associate with libraries,” said Jim Jackson, the foundation’s board chairman.
“Making the library better makes the community better.”
Annually, the library partners with more than 60 nonprofit organizations to offer unique and meaningful programs, with a particular emphasis on collaborating with groups that support marginalized communities who may not have access to library services.
The library ensures that it does not duplicate efforts already provided by those organizations, instead working in tandem to create a robust support system for the community.
For example, the library partners with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County to ensure that students who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year can continue to do so during the summer.
It also partners with Pacific Pride Foundation’s PROUD Youth Group and Social Justice Book Club, offering a safe space for teen programming and discussions on books that examine various social injustices, stereotypes and prejudices.
The new Library Plaza will expand Pacific Pride’s abilities, with space for outdoor PROUD Youth Group gatherings, panel discussions, conferences and book club meetings.
Much of the library’s focus is on youth, and library staff play a critical role in nurturing a passion for reading from a young age as well as addressing early literacy challenges.
“One of the programs I am most proud of is our Orton Gillingham (OG) classes that help dyslexic and struggling readers,” library director Jessica Cadiente told Noozhawk.
“Ours is one of just two libraries in California to offer this program and there’s such great demand that we have a waiting list of 100 kids at any given time.”
The program evaluates students in first through fourth grades to get them reading at grade level.
“This program not only changes the life of the student, but of the whole family,” said Cadiente, noting the proven correlation between illiteracy and crime.
According to the Justice Department, “the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure; over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.”
Simultaneously, the library also functions as a vital resource for families, connecting them with housing and employment opportunities, and offering assistance in tasks such as job applications and citizenship exam preparation.
In partnership with Women’s Economic Ventures, the library also teaches courses in using RefUSA and other small business tools, educating community members about the possibilities for starting a business.
Among the most popular of the library’s vast offerings is the adult education division, which has grown significantly since its inception six years ago.
Classes include a curriculum for high school students to earn their diplomas as well as language instruction for English learners.
To further extend its impact, the library has embraced progressive solutions, including its Library on the Go Van. This electric vehicle, complete with WiFi capabilities, brings the library experience to Santa Barbara, Montecito and Summerland.
With one van already traversing the city and another on the way — thanks to a grant from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara — the SBPL is revolutionizing the concept of library access.
Tailoring its services to various locations, from retirement homes to playgrounds, the van not only offers computer coaching and tech support but also delivers engaging educational opportunities, like Storytime at Shoreline Park.
Committed to ensuring access, the library issues digital library cards to all students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District through their student IDs and offers delivery to homebound individuals.
Veterans are another important group served by the library, with a range of health services, benefits and resources offered.
Acknowledging the importance of serving a diverse community, the library has placed a priority on expanding its Spanish-language resources and bilingual staff.
“I don’t think people are aware of the value and vast services of the library,” Jackson said. “Especially many of those who can most benefit from the services the library provides. In many cases, the library is the only one in the entire county offering particular programs.”
He praised the professional library staff “who know how to make the library serve every segment of our community, regardless of socioeconomics.”
The Santa Barbara Public Library is redefining today’s library, transcending the boundaries of its physical building and the classic notion of simply housing books.
Through collaboration, innovation and a commitment to inclusivity, the library is a vibrant hub for community support, programs, services and education.
And with the grand opening of the Michael Towbes Library Plaza slated for the fall, the programing possibilities are even more exciting and extensive.
The Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation supports the Santa Barbara Public Library by funding large-scale initiatives, and opening doors by offering critical support not covered through public dollars.
Click here for more information, or click here to make an online donation.