A study would be partly funded by a state grant.
Would it solve the capacity issue if the San Benito County Free Library added a second floor?
County Librarian Nora Conte and Supervisory Librarian Erin Baxter, who are members of the Coalition for a New Community Library and Resource Centeranswered some questions from BenitoLink about their work.
The coalition says the feasibility of a second floor would be determined by an earthquake engineering assessment included in the plan for the infrastructure grant program. Whether the permanent structure would be demolished before the upgrade work began would also be determined by the seismic engineering assessment.
Because a 2020 bond measure to expand the library lack of voter supportthe Building the Future: Library Infrastructure Grant from the California State Library was the only funding available that adequately addressed the library’s need for maintenance to ensure public safety.
The library building, which has been around since 1960 and is located at 470 Fifth Street in Hollister, has a public service area of just over 7,000 square feet. For the past 15 years, the industry standard for building new libraries has been 1 square foot per capita. This means that the current library is equipped to serve approximately 7,000 people, or less than 12% of the county’s current population, which is expected to grow to more than 61,000 over the next three years.
If the library expansion project is awarded $15 million by the state library, San Benito County would be responsible for contributing $5 million and the state library would be responsible for $10 million. According to the grant’s website, grant recipients were to be named in the spring.
In November 2021, the Friends of the San Benito County Free Library, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the library, received $20,000 from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation to hire a consultant to help plan expansion of the library, Aviles said.
In 2020, the library was received $500,000 with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to hire more staff and improve internet connectivity. It is the highest dollar amount given to a candidate in the country, according to Conte and Baxter.
IMLS advances and supports libraries, museums, and similar organizations through research, grants, and policy development. Among its many endowments are the Digital Humanities Advancement Fellowship, the CARES Act Fellowship in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
The IMLS grant has a unique way of addressing the library capacity problem. IMLS’s idea was to place a 24-hour library kiosk (which would hold approximately 235 items, according to the IMLS website) in front of the future Sunnyside Park site (next to Hospital Road and Riverview Way, about four miles from the library, according to the IMLS site.)
The kiosk’s proximity to new residential developments near the Migrant Center on Southside Road is also a definite plus.
A digital services librarian and a few administrators have been hired and trained through accelerated learning, according to the coalition.
The team will convert library resources to digital format where appropriate. It will create video tutorials, online playlists, FAQ pages, and other content. It will also deploy mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, e-readers and laptops for payment. There will be RemoteLocker and 24-hour book checking and STEAM project pickup without requiring a trip to the library.
The coalition said, “While this kiosk will not alleviate the need for additional physical space in the library, it will help overcome barriers to access for those in the Southside area who lack transportation.
The kiosk proved itself during the height of the pandemic when transactions had to be contactless.
Putting the library capacity issue into perspective, the facility serves 13 kindergartens, 19 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 3 high schools, and middle schools (Gavilan, CSUMB, and online schools for test proctoring).
It also provides library cards to all county freshmen, as well as all Anzar High School students. The library also offers bookmobile stops, family and emergent literacy programs, personalized virtual storytimes, the Little Books in Little Hands program for preschools, and the Gavilan textbook verification program. There are also outreach programs at school events, events for school-aged children, and online resources for customers of all ages.
For example, during the summer reading period, class visits and other busy programs were held on a rotating basis. Attendees often had to wait outside the library or sit on the floor before their turn due to security restrictions and lack of space.
The coalition said the language materials most requested by community members were generally those in English and Spanish. But there was also a strong demand for Japanese, Chinese, Italian, German, Russian and Arabic.
Another item in high demand is multiple copies of bestsellers, but there has been a shortage of shelf space.
The wishlist also includes:
- Search help
- Baby/Preschool Story Hours
- Regular class/library visits and story times
- Technical tutorial
- Community meeting spaces
- Teleworking spaces
- Spaces for students to work collaboratively
- Digital content creation/video editing/music studio with software and equipment
- Storytime room with stage
- Cultural exhibition space, entrepreneurial laboratory
- Employment Help Center
- A coffee
- Friends of the Library Bookstore/Souvenir Shop
- Craft/manufacturer space, integration of the law library
- Archives/local collection/collaboration and historical society
- Adult/family/ESL literacy programs and science/technology/engineering/arts/math programs
The county’s long-range facilities master plan provides options for 15,000 and 25,000 square feet of library space.
The planned completion date for the library expansion is 2026.
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