Story of modern public library is a real page-turner

Posted on January 15, 2020 by Anna Pier
Vanessa Mondragón, bilingual library specialist; Diana Spaulding, interim branch manager; Sabine Salek, bilingual teen and young adult specialist

According to interim Sonoma Valley Library Manager Diana Spaulding, 2019 was the year of “expanded equity, improved access to library materials, and new staff at the Sonoma Valley Regional Library.” Spaulding went on to acknowledge that the number of monthly visits, which had risen significantly in 2018 due to expanded hours, did not climb in 2019, but there was a small increase in the number of checkouts. 

Spaulding told the Sun that Measure Y revenue increases “translated into a healthier materials budget and more books purchased, both traditional physical books and downloadable ebooks.” She also highlighted an important new policy at the library: no overdue fines. The change, implemented last July, “ensures better equity of access to residents of the Valley living in all economic circumstances. We join many libraries nationwide in establishing this no fine policy.”

New services launched in 2019 include online access to the New York Times, “first dollar free” printing with your library card, and the Link Plus resource sharing service enabling patrons to  borrow books, DVDs, and audiobooks from a network of more than 70 California libraries. The Playaway format of portable media players pre-loaded with audiobooks debuted in March, and SonomaFi wifi hotspots in April. SonomaFi hotspots are Verizon jetpacks that create internet wireless access and offer 22 gigabytes of data over a two-week check-out period.

A limited number of Chromebook Kits containing both Chromebook computers and SonomaFi wifi hotspots were added in December. Spaulding notes, “Once people discovered the SonomaFi hotspots they flew off the shelves, and though we have added additional hotspots and now have 46 units, the hotspots and the Chromebooks are nearly always in use.”

And the library hired two new staff in 2019. Sabine Salek joined the staff in a new position for the branch funded by Measure Y, librarian for teen and young adult services. Vanessa Mondragon was hired as a library specialist. “We are so pleased that both our teen librarian Sabine Salek and our library specialist Vanessa Mondragon are bilingual English/Spanish speakers, which strengthens our capacity to serve the Spanish-speaking residents of Sonoma Valley,” observed Spaulding. 

In the year ahead Spaulding wants the library to “build more partnerships between the library and community groups, create programs that fill the needs of our diverse patrons, and maintain the beautiful facility provided by the town of Sonoma.” Upcoming library events include the Distinguished Speaker series on February 5 featuring New York Times Bestselling author Lisa See.

For the Sonoma County Library as a whole, Spaulding says, 2020 will see the development of a new strategic plan, continued expansion of the collections, and renovation projects at several libraries. 

According to Spaulding “expanding the hours of the library is on the priority list for library administration and the Library Commission for the 2020-21 fiscal year.” People who would like to advocate for enhanced hours or want to weigh in on what hours the library should add can contact Sonoma Valley’s Library Commissioner, Tom Haeuser, at [email protected].

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