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Wanted: Your Input On San Diego's Libraries Of The Future

 March 29, 2021 at 1:42 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 One of the San Diego institutions that has had to shift gears during the pandemic is the public library system. Most libraries have been closed for months with some open to only limited in-person services. During that time, a virtual library services have been expanded with things like virtual book chats and online books available. Now the San Diego public library foundation wants the community to think about the future of libraries. It's developing a new library, master plan, a blueprint for how the library system can look and function. In the coming years. A community survey is open to all San Diegans until mid April. And joining me to talk about it is Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego public library foundation, and Patrick, welcome Speaker 2: 00:48 To the program. Thank you. What Speaker 1: 00:50 Is the status of city libraries now are in-person services expanding? Speaker 2: 00:55 So right now it's pretty much exactly as you described, there are a handful of libraries that are open for very limited in-person services. There's no browsing in the stacks. It's really just being able to pick up old, being able to drop books off and in branches like central, you can come in and there's a couple of computers that are available to be used for very limited amount of time. A few other branches are available for outdoor pickup and drop off, and then 10 branches have what we call computers in the courtyard. And that's an opportunity for patrons to check out laptops and use them here on site, uh, in outdoor spaces for about an hour to 90 minutes each, and be able to turn them back in that same day. Speaker 1: 01:38 So these are some of the ways that the libraries have innovated during the pandemic. Tell us about how virtual meetings and book clubs have gone over with the public. Speaker 2: 01:48 Well, all of this stuff, you know, that the library is doing from a technological or digital perspective are really going over very well. The E resources have expanded, um, by hundreds of percent, depending on different platforms that people are checking out using different databases, learning software eBooks have expanded by about 130% as have the way that, uh, library patrons are connecting. As you're saying through virtual book clubs and virtual meetups, we expect that this kind of service will still be expected. Uh, after we open in full there's a significant amount of our patrons and the population that really finds this new connection to the virtual or digital side of the library to be very beneficial for them and the way that they work in the way that they would interact with library and library services. Speaker 1: 02:38 I have a timeline in terms of when the libraries are expected to start fully reopening for in-person service. Speaker 2: 02:45 No, we don't right now, it's, we're still really relying on the tier system. You know, once we really see cases come down, we start moving into a safer tiers. Then the library system be able to open up little by little to patrons, but right now we're really just taking the cues from the County. And, uh, and it probably will, will most likely be in the situation that we're in now for the next couple of months. Speaker 1: 03:11 I'm wondering why are you developing a new library master plan now, is it because of the innovations developed during the pandemic, Speaker 2: 03:20 The, the innovations developed during the pandemic really given us an opportunity to highlight what the digital and virtual side of the library looks like along with being able to understand how technology is being used or not being used in library branches. You know, we have an existing plan, uh, that was drafted in the late nineties using 1990 census data and then adopted in the early two thousands. And, and this plan that exists now, it doesn't take into account population growth in many neighborhoods that left out a lot of branches, and it doesn't reflect how libraries are used today, specifically with regards to technology, not the plan that we're working on and developing now, uh, was already in the works before we went into lockdown. Last spring, we had developed, uh, with the group G4 it's group four, it's an architecture firm in Sandy, in San Francisco that focuses largely on libraries. Speaker 2: 04:13 We had already developed a phase zero assessment of the library system that was presented to the library board of commissioners in December of 2019. And so we decided even after, um, after COVID hit that we were going to continue with the development of the master plan. And particularly, like I said, because of our ability to see how technology was being used by library patrons, and, uh, being able to address specifically some inequities with technology and, uh, and branch usage in a lot of neighborhoods. So this is, this has been the perfect time to do this as far as we're concerned. Can Speaker 1: 04:51 You elaborate a little bit about those inequities? Speaker 2: 04:54 Currently branch capacity is at about 0.3 square feet per capita system-wide. And again, with a projected city growth, we know that we're going to be well below that level in the next decade. And there's also, you know, some significant inequity in how that 0.3 square feet per capita is currently being distributed. Um, we have a lot of older, smaller branches in communities that have experienced some significant population growth. I would point to Oak park as being one ocean beach is being another one, um, very small neighborhood branches that are trying to serve as best they can as many patrons and community members in their neighborhoods. And then really important, you know, while the library has some significant technological advances, it faces some serious challenges around how the equality of technology accesses exists throughout the system. So, um, this is a perfect time to really take a look at not only, you know, what's really working in the library system, but be able to project future growth and future use in for the library system going forward. Speaker 1: 06:00 What kind of information are you looking for from the public? Speaker 2: 06:03 So we've got our key, like you said, our community engagement, uh, phase has kicked off and it starts with the community survey. And right now the community survey asked the community to think about what really works for your library experience. Uh, the survey is thorough. It includes questions about library use, where particular barriers may exist. We look for community insight. That's not just around the library, but there are questions in there about why is your community special to you and also addresses technology and addresses the inequities in the system and the kinds of things that you would like to see out of your library and the kind of way that you intersect or interact with your library? Um, one of the things that we've noticed too, is a, um, a significant there's about 12% of the respondents don't even live in the city of San Diego's boundaries. So we know that libraries are being used by, uh, residents who live outside of the city in San Diego. And so we want to hear from them too. Do you use the library? Do you use the city of San Diego public library, branch, and, uh, and we want to hear from you, and we also want to hear from people who don't use the library, don't use the branches, why or why not? So we're really seeking a broad bit of insight from the community. Speaker 1: 07:18 People can go to support my to fill out that survey and they have until April 17th to do that. I've been speaking with Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego public library foundation. Patrick. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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The San Diego Public Library Foundation wants the community to think about the future of its libraries.
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