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Rewriting the library? La Jolla branch holds open house, asking locals to edit the space

San Diego Public Library staff in La jolla
From left: San Diego Public Library supervising librarian Kelly Verheyden, La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory, staff members Curtis Williams and Raul Gudino, Library Foundation SD Chief Executive Patrick Stewart, San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones and Deputy Director of Customer Experience Jennifer Jenkins attend a Nov. 7 open house at the La Jolla Library.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego Public Library is collecting community feedback at all 36 of its locations as part of its Library Master Plan.

“The library values collaboration,” San Diego Public Library’s deputy director of customer experience, Jennifer Jenkins, said during a Nov. 7 open house at the La Jolla/Riford Library, where community members could find out more about a planned reimagining of San Diego public libraries and provide feedback about their local branch.

The open house was the first that San Diego Public Library held as part of its Library Master Plan, which has been in progress since 2019 to provide a long-range vision and strategy for SDPL facilities, technology and programs.

The plan’s first phase analyzed internal and external data, incorporating it into a framework that will guide the master plan going forward.

The next phase is collecting community feedback. SDPL will hold open houses at all 36 of its locations before February.

The 24,800-square-foot La Jolla/Riford Library is SDPL’s fifth-largest branch. Only the Central, Valencia Park/Malcolm X, Point Loma/Hervey and Logan Heights branches are larger.

The Nov. 7 session began with moderators asking guests to write answers on sticky notes to three questions about the La Jolla Library: What do you love? What would you change? What would you add?

The questions were reiterated later in discussions.

SDPL Director Misty Jones said a close look at each branch is crucial to the master plan’s success.

Patrick Stewart, chief executive of the nonprofit Library Foundation SD, which supports SDPL, said the first phase of the master plan included more than 7,500 surveys answered by library users, staff members and leaders.

“This opportunity to really speak subjectively to your specific branch and the future of your branches is very, very important,” Stewart said.

La Jolla/Riford Library branch manager Bill Mallory welcomes guests to the library open house.
(Elisabeth Frausto )

Jenkins said the initial surveys indicated “four components that the communities we serve want to see in their libraries.”

Those components, called the “Four E’s,” are “equitable” (providing service to all); “experiential” (ensuring going to the library is special); “effective” (using data and feedback to design programs and services); and “everywhere” (embedding the library in every area of the city).

Jenkins said the surveys also confirmed that most people use the branch closest to where they work or live but will venture to a different branch based on availability of resources such as materials and technology or interesting programming.

She said master plan goals will include increasing technology at libraries and meeting spaces, “providing our community members more spaces to come together to accomplish their goals.”

What do you love?

La Jolla/Riford Library users had a lot of suggestions for library staff. A second board was added later.
(Elisabeth Frausto )

Guests at the La Jolla open house indicated they use library materials to tutor students and engage in the various children’s programs.

One woman said she feels the La Jolla branch is safer than her local Pacific Beach branch. Others said the La Jolla branch is welcoming and that library staff helps them use the materials and spaces.

Katherine Johnston, a La Jolla resident and a member of Library Foundation SD’s advocacy committee, said her young daughters attend art and science programs at the branch.

The library is “a really great way to provide … affordable, enriching opportunities for them,” Johnston said.

What would you change?

Some said they want more functional outdoor spaces at the La Jolla Library and places to study or read.

Cathy Carroll, president of Friends of the La Jolla Library, a nonprofit that supports the Riford branch, said the nonfiction area “is really underutilized right now as circulation moves away from nonfiction stacks, [and] it would be an interesting area to repurpose for study rooms [or] small-group meeting rooms.”

Jenkins said SDPL is indeed looking at converting existing spaces to “meet the needs of the folks now and in the future.”

She said library collections are “our bread and butter ... and that’s what we will always do. But we also are aware that one of the greatest things that we [can] have is a community space in every single community.”

Johnston agreed, saying, “Especially right now when we have such great political polarization, it’s really important to have public spaces like this where people come together from all walks of life and really embrace what brings us together.”

She added that “the library system has a lot of deferred maintenance” and she wants SDPL to “begin to think of how we’re going to address some of those deficiencies.”

What would you add?

If money were no object, guests wished for well-lighted, secure parking at the La Jolla/Riford branch, along with a more colorful children’s area with better carpeting.

One participant said he’d like the library to be staffed and open daily around the clock.

Next steps

After SDPL moderators hold open houses at the other branches, consultants will formulate a plan for each library, Jenkins said. “That is what we hope will be the final product when this next Phase 2 report is released.”

Stewart said “library funding is a key part of this” and that Library Foundation SD will “think long and hard about ... the way library programs and services [and] buildings and facilities and maintenance are funded.” ◆