At San José Public Library we are committed to hearing from you and providing the public with free supportive programs, resources and services. Since 2018, SJPL has been hosting Community Conversations each quarter to gather community feedback, concerns and programming suggestions. Over the years, we’ve heard from dozens of community members whose ideas have shaped our Library service model.
Beginning late 2020, SJPL modified its Community Conversations format to focus on particular themes and emerging issues. Each quarter, SJPL staff will work in district groupings to facilitate conversations, including occasional guest presenters. As part of our equity approach, the Library will also host separate sessions for Spanish-only and Vietnamese-only speakers. This is a Volunteer Away Your Fines event.
In December 2020, Community Conversations focused on the Digital Divide and the SJ Access initiative spearheaded by the Library. With everything from education to medical appointments available in virtual-only format during 2020, access to the internet became a lifeline. Yet, a 2017 City of San Jose report found that 28% of households and residents in the City lacked broadband access.
A total of 80 participants joined Library staff in December who were among the first to borrow an SJ Access hotspot, shared their personal experiences regarding broadband needs, provided hotspot user feedback to guide our initiative and identified additional opportunities, which are summarized in a Powerpoint presentation.
In early 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine is identified as another critical issue. As the vaccine rolled out in Santa Clara County, Library staff shared presentations about the latest vaccine updates and facilitated conversations with healthcare professionals who joined as guest speakers to answer questions from the public. As with December 2020's Community Conversations, this series also included separate Spanish and Vietnamese language sessions to share this important information and dialogue opportunity with our monolingual, non-English speaking communities.
Some of the concerns that we heard included:
"A lot of people have lost their jobs. People don't have enough income for food and they suffer in silence. [I'm] worried about those community members who have lost their jobs and not asking for help."
"My near family hasn't had COVID-19, but my family in Colombia contracted the virus where the treatment is very expensive. It is stressful for everybody, even for the kids doing online classes."
"There are still people that don't believe in the damage caused by the virus. They don't take care about themselves and congregate."
"A lot of us are suffering from stress and depression between dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic changes such as loss of jobs, distance learning for school-age kids and family members getting sick."
Community members also expressed concern for caregiving support at large and hope for reuniting with loved ones:
"What about those community members that have shut themselves from the world?"
"These issues that our community members are facing doesn't just affect our neighborhood but it affects everyone worldwide"
"My mother-in-law is 96 years old living in a nursing facility. She was vaccinated early on but her facility is still restricting visitors (even fully vaccinated)."
"I haven't seen my mom for over a year. You can guarantee I will give her a big hug when I see her."
The Library held Conversations between May and June, to better understand what programs, services and other requests you have for the Library as we prepare to re-open access indoors, followed by another round of Community Conversations on the Digital Divide as we approach one year since the launch of SJ Access. Highlights from these conversations will be summarized and shared in an upcoming blog.
All members of the public are welcome to join any Community Conversations throughout the year.