Each year this prestigious recognition goes to a public library that most profoundly demonstrates service to community, creativity, leadership and innovation in developing community programs, particularly programs that can be emulated by others. In addition to a cash award of $10,000, the San Diego County Library (SDCL) will be featured as the cover story for the June 15 issue of Library Journal and at LibraryJournal.com/.
“Despite massive budget cuts in a time of overwhelming need for California residents, the San Diego County Library has demonstrated ingenuity, creativity and perseverance in serving the needs of all residents—and has done so with record-breaking success,” said Francine Fialkoff, editor-in-chief, Library Journal. “We’re thrilled to name them Library of the Year.”
The SDCL has been serving the community for almost a century, and it currently serves a population of over one million. Its 33 branches cover a county bigger than the state of Connecticut, and one that includes an international border, mountains, shoreline, desert, city and suburbs. Like most California libraries, the SDCL has faced dire budget cuts—30% over the last three years—but through unique programming and strategic budget allocation has managed to triple its materials circulation and quadruple program attendance over the last six years. At the same time, SDCL has implemented an ambitious capital improvement program, retained all staff and greatly increased volunteer numbers.
Under the leadership of Director José Aponte, SDCL has moved toward automating more services and reconfiguring library spaces in order to increase staff’s face-to-face time helping customers. “Floating” collections organized via state-of-the-art technology and regional consortia have boosted stagnant circulation even with a drastically depleted materials budget. Circulation has increased to 12.4 million items, tripling from 4.1 million in 2008. However, it is in the area of programming where SDCL shines the brightest.
From his arrival, Aponte encouraged all staff to develop programming ideas for library customers of all ages – and everyone has stepped up. Last year, the SDCL offered more than 22,000 programs, an average of 60 programs every calendar day, with an attendance of nearly half of a million. Since 2005, programming has grown five-fold, and attendance has more than quadrupled. In the past six months alone, SDCL increased adult programming by 20%, with a 40% increase in attendance. A few of the many innovative programs offered include:
• Parent Education/Platicas de Vida – Fulfilling a dire need for bilingual parental guidance for parents of school-age youth, the SDCL has served 587 families since 2008.
• Off-Site Summer Reading Club – Delivers reading club-in-a-box kits to youth groups unable to transport kids to libraries. Since 2007, 850 kits have been distributed and more than 32,000 youth served.
• Service Learners – With the recession making work for teens scarce, SDCL hired them as volunteer Service Learners – enriching their resumes and providing an opportunity for mentoring, while also expanding library service operations. Last year, 1,578 Service Learners gave more than 30,000 hours, the equivalent of $800,000+ in staffing value.
• Health and Fitness Programming – California has the highest percentage of residents without health insurance (21%). Through partnerships with community organizations, SDCL provides vital health screenings and expert presentations on a regular basis. Certified Application Assistants also help families complete paperwork for health and food assistance.
• Professional Group Study – A program to help new refugees, it has given more than 60 physicians, engineers, architects, dentists, veterinarians, and other professionals an opportunity to prepare for U.S. license exams. Several participants have earned their U.S. engineering licenses, and others have been admitted to U.S. medical residency programs.
• HOME Clinics – With residents hit hard by the housing crisis, the SDCL partnered with housing authorities to offer free clinics providing them with information to make educated financial and legal decisions about their homes. The successful program has since been replicated in other counties.
“Supporting libraries that truly transform the lives of those in their community is at the core of Cengage Learning’s mission. Given all that they have done and continue to do, we are very excited to recognize San Diego County Library with this award,” said Nader Qaimari, senior vice president, marketing, Cengage Learning.
“SDCL has always been and always will be about the people. The people we serve give us our purpose – they inspire our dedicated staff to provide the best services possible,” said José Aponte, director, San Diego County Library. “There is no greater way to honor our community, our staff, and our library. We’re delighted to receive this recognition from Gale and Library Journal.”
The 2012 Library of the Year Award will be presented formally at a gala reception at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA on June 24, 2012. For more information, please contact Polly Cipparrone at polly.cipparrone[.]sdcounty.ca.gov.
About Cengage Learning and Gale
Cengage Learning (cengage.com / gale.cengage.com) is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. Gale, part of Cengage Learning, serves the world’s information and education needs through its vast and dynamic content pools, which are used by students and consumers in their libraries, schools and on the Internet. It is best known for the accuracy, breadth and convenience of its data, addressing all types of information needs – from homework help to health questions to business profiles – in a variety of formats.
About Library Journal
Founded in 1876, Library Journal (libraryjournal.com) is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. More than 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews more than 8,000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and Websites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. For more information, visit libraryjournal.com. Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine, and Junior Library Guild.
About San Diego County Library
San Diego County Library has diligently served the community of San Diego County since 1913. Through 33 community branches and two bookmobiles, SDCL provides access to over 33.7 million items and more than 22,000 free programs each year. SDCL’s mission statement (To Inform, Educate, Inspire, and Entertain) is embodied by 290 staff members who serve the information needs of over one million residents.