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Making the most of your local library

 January 2, 2024 at 1:17 PM PST

S1: Welcome in San Diego , it's Jade Hindman. Did you know you can rent movies or take art classes at the library ? Will walk you through all of the ways you can use your library card. This is midday Edition , connecting our communities through conversation. Author Octavia Butler said it best public libraries are the open universities of America. They're free. They're accessible to everyone. They may offer special services. They offer worlds of possibilities to people who might otherwise be confined by their ignorance. That statement couldn't be truer of the San Diego Public Library , where you can do so much more than check out a book. Jennifer Jenkins is the deputy director of customer experience at the San Diego Public Library. She's here to talk about all the different ways we can use the library. Jennifer , welcome.

S2: Hi , Jay. Great to be here. Do you have all day ? I have a lot to talk about.

S1: Oh , I'm here for it. I'm here for it. Can't wait. So glad to have you on. Okay , so before we get into all the things you can do at the library , let's get to the first step and get that out of the way.

S2: All you need is a photo ID for anyone ages 18 and older , and a proof of address. And you can start the process online by filling out an online application. If you just want to check out some of our online resources , and you have 30 days to come into the library to actually activate that online card. But the easiest way is to visit your favorite San Diego Public Library branch. Bring in that documentation , and there's a quick form to fill out , and we'll issue you your library card. And anyone in the state of California is eligible for a library card. So if you're a resident of San Diego , then what's stopping you ? You need to come right in and get your library card today. That's right.

S1: I mean , and it gives you access to so many things. I mean , a lot of people may not know this , but the library also has more to offer than just physical books. It's also got a vast digital collection.

S2: So we've got a really extensive online collection of ebooks , audiobooks , online newspapers and magazines. All of that can be found on our library , on our website. And then we also have really cool online courses , something like Brain Fuse , Coursera , Gail , even LinkedIn learning and an assortment of databases that you can sign up for with your library card to learn topics or take courses like accounting , finance , learn languages , get computer help. Also get homework help for the kiddos. Um , one of my favorites is Coursera because you can learn crafty skills too. And I'm trying to pick up crochet. So I've started those videos and I'm slowly but surely going to learn that.

S1: That is excellent. What a resource.

S2: For all the intent of this , it was born during the pandemic , but it's to bridge the digital divide and to get internet access through the way of Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks into the hands of folks that need them. In addition to those physical resources that you can check out , we offer tech classes and tech assistance that are hosted by digital navigators. Those are actually interns who are part of the Employee and Empower Internship program for the city that are being paid to assist with a variety of things throughout the city. One of the nice jobs that they can do is to help folks with technology , and we know that Gen Z is definitely at the forefront of using technology. Absolutely.

S1: Absolutely. One of the things I think is pretty cool too is nature kits.

S2: Oh my gosh. So these are some of my favorite things that we offer , are tools to get you and your family out into the community. The nature kits came about as a way to put things in the hands of families , so that they can easily go and explore nature , explore our city and county and state parks. We have a really cool program called Discovering Go that allows patrons to check out tickets to some of San Diego's biggest local attractions , all for free , so you can visit places like the zoo , the new Children's Museum , the San Diego Museum of Art , even Skate World. Everybody loves roller skating , and so it's really easy to do this. You just go online and you can make a reservation up to three months in advance for up to four passes for your whole family. There's no charge at all. The only ticket you need is your library card.

S1: That is excellent.

S2: At any one of our library branches. We also have a really great homework help program for K through eight students that's offered at 14 library locations , and you have free access to tutors who can help your student with. Their schoolwork. But of course we have fun things too. One thing I'm looking forward to in April is we are supporting getting eclipse glasses out to all of our community members , and we'll be hosting Steam programs around the different topics that are associated with the upcoming eclipse. And so there'll be many programs that you can join , and you can also learn about some of the science behind the eclipse and why it's so interesting , and how to view the eclipse even if you don't have eclipse glasses. One thing that's really great for all ages , especially kids and teens , is our California State Parks pass. With your library cards. You can check out a vehicle pass that will give you access to over 200 participating state parks , and it will permit entry for one passenger vehicle with a capacity of up to nine people or less. So that's a really great deal. And it's another way to get out and see this beautiful state.

S1: So here's another question for you. The library offers a lot of resources to adults too , right ? I mean , like citizenship tests , job applications , interview prep. Can you talk about all of those things ? Exactly.

S2: One of the really cool programs that we have is the adult high School Diploma program. This is an accredited high school program for those folks who did not graduate from high school in the traditional way , or possibly have not been able to pursue the GRE program. So this is a really accessible way , with a lot of supports in place to help folks complete that step in their education so that they can achieve their goals , whether it's being able to support their kids with their homework or to go for that new job. We try to bridge services from one to another. So we also partner with San Diego Workforce Partnership. They can help folks with resume writing and with interview practice. So there's a variety of ways that we support adults. One new and unique initiative that we are kicking off this year is supporting our older adults. The library is a really great place for our older citizens to find community , to meet with each other , to be able to take free classes , um , whether it's chair yoga or cooking , something that they're interested in , but also able to meet with their peers. And we've just started providing these kits for older adults that are available for checkout at multiple locations , and there are different games to help with memory or to generate conversation with family members. And those can all be checked out for free at several of our locations.

S1: Does the library also offer or work with social services at all ? Yes.

S2: At our central library we partner with several different organizations non-profit organizations that do provide supports to our unhoused patrons and folks who are in need of connecting with a variety of sources , including housing , getting documents. So that's something that we're able to do here at central and have the subject matter experts be on site here to provide that outreach. And then we also have our partners that table at various library branches to help spread the word about those social services. So because we're integrated into each and every community in the city of San Diego , this is a really accessible way to meet people where they are and to make it as easy as possible for them to get the information that they need to , to help their circumstances.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman , I'm speaking with Jennifer Jenkins , deputy director of customer experiences at the San Diego Public Library , about all of the different ways you can use the library. And Jennifer , the library is also planning to expand its digital memory lab.

S2: We just got a significant grant through our library foundation in SD partnering with them. We got a significant grant through Carnegie Mellon to support implementation of five additional memory labs and to expand the equipment and services in our existing memory lab. I think this is really cool. I think everyone knows someone in their family. Or perhaps you're the person in your family who is charged with keeping all of the photographs and boxes full of , uh , you know , pictures and VHS tapes. Anything you can think of everything from an eight track to some of the more obscure video recording devices. The memory labs are really cool because through this grant , we'll be able to expand those services to locations throughout the city , and we will be able to work with the community to help them preserve their family , their cherished family memories , for their home archive or collection. But one of the key pieces of this project is going to be creating a. Community archive that truly represents the community of San Diego. If folks are interested in contributing their memorabilia or their ephemera or the things that they are converting into digital , we're also going to be building a community archive so that years and years from now , folks will be able to see what it was like to live in San Diego and what sort of memories people cherished. Wow.

S1: Wow. You know , something else that I know very well is that librarians are really information experts.

S2: We often help folks navigate local information or navigate services like two , one , one to find what they're looking for. But we also support research. We have a special collections and Rare Books room on our ninth floor at Central Library , and there is a regional and local history area , as well as an ancestry , um , area , so we can support folks in their research , whether they're researching their families , whether they're reaching scholarly or legal topics , or everyone's favorite question is what we call readers advisory , but what everyone else would say , what's the next book I'm going to read ? Um , a lot of our staff are incredibly well-read , incredibly well-versed in current and niche forms of literature , and are great at making recommendations. We have a really cool online service called Match Book , and you can go to our website and fill out a little form with some of your preferences , some of your likes and dislikes , and then a librarian will get back to you with curated recommendations. And that's been a really successful program. And we do have folks return again and again , and sometimes ask for the specific librarian that helped them before , because they were so good at making a recommendation that really fit what the patron was looking for.

S1: And there's another program that I really wanted to touch on to. The San Diego Public Library recently joined a program called Books Unbanned. It gives library cards to people who don't live in San Diego , but want to read books that have been removed from their own libraries.

S2: I have kids , I have a ninth grader , and I have a first grader , and I am so fortunate and lucky to live here in San Diego , where we protect the freedom to read , and we believe in the right to read in our schools and in our public libraries. So when we discovered that many of our peers across the nation were experiencing challenges to books , censorship , challenges to intellectual freedom , we felt that we needed to join some of our peer libraries across the nation to combat this , by making those books accessible to anyone in the country who is looking for a particular title. So we've got a curated online library of some of the most challenged books in the nation right now that are available to anyone ages 13 to 26. This was 100% funded by private donations through Library Foundation SD , and we're one of many libraries who are offering this program , and we're the only one in California that is offering this collection to anyone in the nation. And the reason for that is because some of these books are being attacked for reasons that are kind of superficial and not accurate , and libraries really put a lot of work into selecting materials for our collections. So we believe that books should be accessible to anyone , and everyone has the right to read. The great thing about books unbanned is it's not just available to folks across the nation. If you have a San Diego Public Library card , you can access our entire e-book collection , including the additional copies of those frequently challenged books that our foundation purchased for the local San Diego collection. So you're not missing out on anything. And your support also helps youth across the country read what they need to read.

S1: I've been speaking with Jennifer Jenkins , deputy director of customer experience at the San Diego Public Library. Jennifer , it was really great talking to you. Thanks so much for joining us.

S2: Thank you. Jay , nice to be here.

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City Heights-Weingart Library reopens to in person services on July 6, 2021.
Alexandra Rangel
The City Heights-Weingart Library is pictured here in an undated photo.

Public libraries are among the few places in the country that are free, accessible and open to all. In addition to print books, they offer many other resources, including fitness classes, museum passes and even solar eclipse glasses. Midday Edition sat down with a librarian to learn about how to take advantage of everything your local library has to offer.