It’s only been three-and-a-half years since La Jolla’s Youth Services librarian Bill Mallory departed the Riford branch, bound for Clairemont. And a lot has changed. The Science Lab was much smaller in a closet-sized room, and the Memory Lab was but an idea.
But in early June, Mallory was named the new Riford Library branch manager, following the departure of Shaun Briley earlier this year. And while he is no stranger to the 7555 Draper Ave. facility, there is a lot with which he has to familiarize himself.
Earlier this year, the Science Lab expanded to an Idea Lab in the center of the library, including a 3-D printing lab, Bio Lab for citizen science, Computer Lab with cutting-edge equipment and more; and the Memory Lab is now the in-demand center for digitizing data on obsolete formats, such as floppy disks and VHS tapes.
With all these amenities, Mallory has embraced the library as a literary, community and scientific hub.
“The La Jolla Library has a history of innovation and we definitely want to continue with that,” Mallory said on the third day at his new post.
“This branch is the best example of what a library can be going forward, and I think it set the standard for libraries of the future. It’s a great chance to see that libraries are more than a repository for books. That’s what all libraries should be: a place to get information to the people, provide services for the community that they would not already have access to themselves. Every community has its own unique properties and the goal is certainly to address La Jolla’s specific wants and needs.”
His initial goals are to improve these new features and familiarize himself with their offerings. Mallory said he will inventory the science equipment to see what they can replace, what needs to be incorporated into the Idea Lab, and what to get rid of. Further, Mallory said he wants to increase the number of volunteers for the Memory Lab, which is currently booked up months in advance. Volunteers are trained in how to use the equipment, so while familiarity is a plus, there is no set prerequisite to becoming a volunteer.
But, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
For Mallory, the staff, dedicated volunteers and members of the Friends of La Jolla Library (two-thirds of whom he estimates, he knew as Youth Services Librarian) have remained a consistent support system.
“They are a great bunch. They dedicate a lot of their time to benefit the library and they are still rocking it,” he said. “Having them as a base allows the library to be innovative and do these programs you don’t see in most libraries. Their stability allows us to reach out and try new things.”
Mallory added the staff has been supportive during the transition: “I’m trying not to say, ‘back in my day, we did it this way’ because we want to move forward and go ahead with a lot of the great work that has been started here. It’s good to see the folks and be part of this great community.”
Mallory was hired at the La Jolla Riford branch (his first library job) in 2012 and served as Youth Services librarian until early 2016.
From there, he transitioned to the “small but mighty” Clairemont Library as branch manager. “I loved being there and during those three-and-a-half years we were able to make some good improvements to the branch,” he said. “Now I’m back. Seven years and only two branches! I don’t think it happens very often that someone gets to come back to the branch where they started.”
Mallory got into Library Sciences after 20 years of sellingretail books — including being the last manager of the Crown Books store on El Cajon Boulevard before the company went under — and four years at Riverside County doing medical determination for the Adult Protective Services department.
“It was there that I realized I wanted to help people, rather than just sell them things,” he said. “So I thought the library was a way to unite the two.”
Committed to libraries ever since, Mallory said he is happy to be back in La Jolla. “It feels like putting on a comfortable sweater,” he said.