Let me begin by saying that I know all of us who are attached to the library, and that includes staff, Friends, other volunteers, and patrons, have experienced an interruption in their relationship with our institution. I think this separation has been felt more intensely by the Friends because you have been with us, and with each other, for so many years.
I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for making the remodeling of our Children’s section possible. You can see pictures of the final renovations on the Friends’ website. Please stop by the branch to see the fruits of your hard work when you have the chance.
The Friends are purchasing new, tabletop shelves to put on the sills of the children’s area, and they have approved funding for a new rotating shelf that can hold up to 350 books. Both items will expand our shelving space, and so, the Friends have written a check for $999 to buy fresh paperbacks for the children.
Friends President Maggi Stern has shared with me a list of your most urgent concerns. I will do my best to answer these questions.
The first is, when are the Friends going to be allowed back into the Library.
The activity of the Friends was suspended when our mayor issued a directive that prohibited all volunteers from carrying out their regular activities in any City Facility. That directive was issued early in the pandemic. However, that restriction will soon be lifted.
I believe Maggi already has received an email from the Director of Engagement and Learning, Eva Mitnick, outlining how the Friends will be allowed back into the branches. The first step will be verification of our volunteers’ vaccination status. I’d like to invite any of you who might be available to stop by the branch for that purpose on the next two Saturdays, December 4 and 11, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Staff have been required to report their vaccination status, as well. This is a statewide directive and is supported by Mayor Garcetti. It is intended to protect the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and patrons as we take steps toward returning to full operations. For this reason, volunteers who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to participate in on-site work for the Friends. After we’ve completed the verification process, I’d like to meet with the Friends’ Board members to talk about our next steps.
Like every other aspect of LAPL’s reopening, the Friends’ return to the branch will happen in stages. Ruth Seid, our area manager, and I have been talking about when the Friends might begin organizing the storage room and bookstore. This on-site work can be scheduled right after the New Year, starting January 3.
Maggi’s next two questions are closely related to the first: Why haven’t we been accepting donations? And when will donations be accepted again?
We haven’t been accepting donations, first of all, because the Friends were not allowed into the branch to handle them. We also do not have space to store a constantly growing inventory of books that are not being sold. And we no longer have the recycling capabilities that once made it possible to dispose of unusable donations. In addition to these limitations, the bookstore has not been open because social distancing is not possible in that space.
We will begin accepting donations again in the New Year. The scheduling and handling of donations is one subject I’d like to talk about when I meet with the Board. Our plans will take into account the needs of the Friends, the staff, and the public. We will address how to manage patrons who have difficulty complying with our mask requirements, and how to serve customers safely in the bookstore’s space.
The last question I received was, "What does the Central Library see as the future of the Friends of the Library?"
The purpose of Friends groups is defined in the Board of Library Commissioners' Policies, which state:
Friends groups are authorized by the board to engage in activities that increase community awareness of the library, provide volunteer and program support, raise funds to enhance library services of a branch, department or special service, and advocate for the financial support of the LAPL.
That policy was last amended in July 2013, and it has not changed.
What this means to me is that, at the Encino-Tarzana branch, the Friends and I will work together to determine how we can best serve our library and our public. All of us must be open to discussions about what works well for all parties, what might need to be changed, and what new activities we might pursue.
Please remember that the pandemic has been a challenge for staff, as it has been for you. I have supported my staff in their efforts to meet that challenge. The fruits of those efforts include:
- A grant-supported, "Teens Leading Change" project on domestic violence that produced an original graphic novel, ‘zine, and resource list about domestic violence, specifically among young people. (I will bring a copy of the book to share.) This project was led by our teen librarian Elisabeth Calla, in collaboration with the Teen librarian from the Canoga Park branch.
- Online programs, including weekly Yoga sessions and special monthly storytimes that were funded by the Friends.
- Bi-monthly online storytime and craft programs featuring children’s librarian Shokoufeh Moghtassed.
- And online craft clubs, a climate change cafe, and a wildfire awareness program organized and facilitated by librarian Elisabeth Calla.
These achievements are all proof of what our branch has and will continue to offer our community, with the support of our Friends. We haven’t shied away from the challenges the pandemic threw at us. Going forward, I am sure we’ll have more accomplishments to be proud of. I look forward to collaborating with the Friends on future successes.
With warm regards,