April 4-10 we celebrate National Library Week. National Library Week was started by the American Library Association in 1958. The goal at that time was to respond to the research that Americans were spending less on books and more on other media such as radios, televisions, and musical instruments. They believed that if people were motivated to read, they would in turn support their local library. That first National Library Week was the first national event that encouraged libraries to promote a unified message to all patrons. The “Wake Up and Read” campaign was a success and thus would begin the national annual celebration after it was voted by the ALA Council in 1959.
This year’s theme is “Welcome to Your Library.” The theme is to promote the idea that the library is more than just our buildings. That we are a welcoming space for all patrons and that we are dedicated to continuing to break down barriers. Last year, like many of you, the San José Public Library was trying to figure out how Covid-19 would change how we operated. We knew the pandemic would not only change how we engage with one another but what library service would look like moving forward. In this year at home we have changed how we engage with you and hope that we have shown that we are committed to using our resources to support you.
In this past year we introduced SJ Access that gave over 12,000 hotspots to San José students, has offered 3000 hotspots for patron check-out, 35 (and still adding) laptops for patron borrowing and gave away 200 laptops putting technology in the hands of patrons with limited access to technology. We have also added Free Public Access to Wi-Fi to East San Jose communities. We made it easier to get a library card with our eLibrary cards, which give patrons access to online learning, and electronic resources such as ebooks, and streaming services. During the summer in 2020 and into the fall we offered STEAM activity kits that gave children the same materials that we offer during library programs. Furthermore, we transitioned many programs to online to continue to offer opportunities to learn, experience and be exposed to new things similar to what we offered when we could open our doors to you. We are also currently offering virtual class visits with our librarians to support the educational efforts of our local schools.
We’ve done a lot, but there is still so much more to do.
2020 exposed to all of us the disparity and inequality that exists in many of our communities and neighborhoods. Like many of you we as a system have be grappling with how best to address these issues in ways that are thoughtful and compassionate. Libraries are supposed to be places of equalization where anyone can come in and learn for their own self betterment no matter what station in life they started from. However, what we have learned in this past year is how important it is to make sure that we live up to that expectation and philosophy.
This year presented many challenges to libraries but has also given us an occasion to evaluate how we interact with you. The San José Public Library like other libraries across the nation has taken this time to think about how we will use our resources moving forward to better serve you as we begin to reopen and navigate the still on-going issue with the Covid-19 virus, racial social inequality, and the digital divide. We will work closer with our school districts to create programs and opportunities that mirror the work being done in our schools’ classrooms. We plan to continue to offer programs that provide equitable access to resources for all. We want to work diligently with our communities to highlight the rich diversity of the City of San José. We will find ways to continue to offer programming that offers flexibility to families.
As we celebrate National Library Week, we ask you to take time in your schedule to participate in some of our programs and offer your suggestions on ways we can better serve what interests you.
And when the time comes, we hope to Welcome (you physically back) to Your Library.