As I’m slowly packing up my office, organizing files and thinking about life after being director of Sacramento Public Library for a dozen years. I am trying to give myself room to reflect and think about why I love this library. It’s our diverse communities, our great staff, and most of all, a spirit that says yes to possibilities.
Sacramento Public Library has a reputation for being an innovative library system. We are and it starts with listening. SPL has long been in the practice of turning to our community for feedback on their needs and wants. In 2019, we facilitated 83 Harwood Community Conversations across all library locations to better understand what challenges community members were experiencing, and what they wanted to see in their neighborhoods. Because of our community-focused approach, we've been able to incubate and implement ideas to address specific neighborhood priorities. Those initiatives are often made possible with the help of grant funding. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been awarded more than $4 million from various sources to seed concepts to help us adapt to our region’s changing needs. We have been successful in creating new sustainable services and programs that make a lasting difference.
The I Street Press, which just celebrated its 10th year, began with a grant that allowed us to purchase an Espresso Book Machine. We said goodbye to the machine a few years ago, but our new “press” continues. Since then, we’ve helped more than 500 authors in our community publish 700 new titles. This self-publishing service allows more diverse voices to be heard.
The Library of Things, which launched in 2015, expanded our collection beyond books. It provides access to a variety of tools and equipment from lawnmowers to musical instruments that were identified by a community survey. We’ve helped fuel creativity with a makerspace at Central Library and the Tom Sanderson Design Spot at our Arcade Library. Soon, we’ll offer a production space with a WhisperRoom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
While we have a wealth of resources within our library locations, we know how critical it is to also connect with communities outside our library walls. We’ve been able to bring early learning programs and resources to high-need communities, and also offer training, gaming and of course, books. Over the years, we’ve expanded our mobile services fleet. Vincent Van Go, Vinnie for short, brings the library to various communities in our region. It is a visible reminder that libraries can be where you need them to be. In early 2022, two brand new all electric bookmobiles will replace our 1998 vehicles. (We’re very good at getting every last penny out of our resources.)
The Library is here to help support lifelong learning including earning your high school diploma. Since 2014, the Library has provided free access to the Career Online High School program (COHS) and has helped 200 graduates prepare to enter the workforce with improved employment opportunities. More than 80% of graduates continue on to higher education.
We have a terrific track record of listening to the communities to identify critical needs, and establishing pilots to develop permanent services to benefit our community. It’s this innovative spirit and sustainable approach that will allow the Library to continue to evolve.