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Library improvements for Solana Beach

Most of us carry digital devices that can answer any question. With that kind of computing power right in our pockets or purses, some might ask if libraries remain relevant in this age of instant information.

My answer is libraries aren’t just relevant, they’re more important than ever. Just look at Solana Beach.

This week, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve my recommendation to award a $200,000 grant to the Solana Beach Library to support $2.2 million in planned improvements.

The remodeling includes two new study rooms, a new staff workroom, lobby renovations, expanded display space for popular materials and a bigger book store for the Friends of the Solana Beach Library.

Plans for the interior call for new shelving, an automated materials handler, a new computer lab, expanded areas for children and teens, new furnishings and equipment and relocating the service desk.

The branch serves great numbers of patrons. Last year, door counts totaled 214,544 and circulation totaled 321,258. Also in 2014-15, the branch offered 1,162 programs serving 21, 257 attendees. Public computer and Wi-Fi sessions totaled 41,369.

Smart phones did not exist when the branch opened in 2001 on the campus of Earl Warren Middle School as the first county’s first “shared-use” library. But even in recent years, we’re not seeing the ubiquitous smart phone peeling customers away from the library.

As a shared facility, the library serves its middle school-aged patrons with extra hours and a specially-trained library technician during the school year. The school district, which owns the building and the land it occupies, covers those costs.

For students, the library is home to the Earl Warren Reading Challenge and the Earl Warren Spelling Bee. The library provides space for meetings of the Earl Warren PTSA and programming for special-needs students.

In cooperation with the school’s English Department, the library in October hosted a “ One Book, One San Diego” program that featured Gene Luen Yang, author of the award-winning novel, “American Born Chinese.”

County of San Diego departments make good use of the facility. The Registrar of Voters has used the building as a polling place and, in 2014, equipped the library as an official drop-off location for mail-in ballots. In February, our Health and Human Services Agency provided all-day blood pressure screenings as part of the Love Your Heart Campaign.

Other programs include: Spanish bilingual baby story time; Spanish instruction for adults; homework help and story time for children from the Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito, La Colonia Branch; a book club for Solana Beach Senior Center and a venue for the North County Immigration Citizenship Center and La Colonia de Eden Gardens Community Meetings.

Can a smart phone do all of that?

The Friends of the Solana Beach Library are a driving force behind the success of the branch. In 2000, the group’s fundraising covered nearly one third of the original, $3.2 million cost. The Friends remain every bit as engaged with the current remodeling program and the community owes the group a debt of gratitude.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.


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