Information Station: Director says library gets by with a little help from its Friends

Catherine Greene on the job at La Jolla's Riford Library.
Catherine Greene on the job at La Jolla's Riford Library.

By Kirby Brooks

Contributor

Catherine Greene has an office, but the director of La Jolla’s Riford Branch of the San Diego Public Library can most often be found at a desk near the entrance in the midst of its visitors and, of course, its many books.

After earning an undergraduate career in economics, Greene said she toiled on Wall Street for a handful of years before having “an epiphany.”

“I got out a legal pad and made a list of the jobs I could see myself doing at age 65, and went back to get my library degree,” Greene said. After moving to California, the East Coast transplant was the head librarian at La Jolla Country Day School before moving to the big leagues — the San Diego Public Library.

Greene has worked for the San Diego Public Library for more than 25 years, spending the majority of her time in the research/reference section for history and literature at the branch downtown.

Greene says she is happier working at the La Jolla branch, a post she’s held for just over two years. Her main frustrations, however, come from worries over her staff being downsized.

“The hardest part of the job has to be dealing with the morale of the staff,” Greene said, in reference to looming rumors of more budget cuts and reduced operating hours.

And as for the best part?

“Dealing with people and purchasing library items to benefit the community,” she said. If the budget weren’t a concern, she said she would beef up the library’s staff and add a coordinator for all the special programs the library offers and a clerical worker to handle all the paperwork she’s had to shoulder due to recent cuts.

When addressing the subject of a possible reduction in operating hours, Greene said she doesn’t know what the future holds. She points out that there has been a surge in library use due to the tough economy while the hours of one library assistant were cut in half and there are no plans to replace another staff member who retired.

Still, the Riford branch survives, and thrives, largely due to donations and endowments. Plaques listing benefactors pepper the place and the entire Joan and Irwin Jacobs Library Annex is the result of gifts.

The Annex houses the colorful Youth Area on its main floor, the nonfiction collection on the lower level (which includes a local history room) and fiction, periodicals and magazines on the third floor. Greene is especially proud of the selection here. A self-professed bibliophile, she places green tags on books she’s read and respects to give the stacks and stacks of novels a bookstore feel.

Friends of the La Jolla Library enhance the bookstore atmosphere. This nonprofit group helps support the branch by raising an average of $3,000 per month from used book sales. The city matches the amount, which is then deposited into the San Diego Library Foundation account.

Friends’ boasts some 30 volunteers who sort through about 300 donations per week. Most of the books and DVDs that are donated and don’t make it into the library’s stacks are sold at bigger biannual book sales (the Winter Book Sale is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 12), while the rest are donated to veterans, families of service members, and local charitable organizations.

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