California State Library's Public Library Director Orientation

“Bringing the State Together”

When California’s public library directors gathered March 16 and 17 at Sacramento’s Hyatt Regency for the California State Library’s Public Library Directors' Orientation, the adjacent State Capitol Park was verdant with camellia blooms and cherry blossoms. Capitol Park was an ideal background against which 122 of California’s library leaders would learn (or re-learn) how California State Library (CSL) programs and services help California’s public libraries flourish.

State Librarian of California Susan Hildreth said in her welcome that the orientation’s goal was to “bring the state together as a team.” And in an early session, chair of the California Library Association (CLA) Legislative Committee, Mark Smith emphasized that government leaders see library directors as “authorities,” that the CSL’s training would enable the directors to be “even better” advocates for their libraries.

Hildreth’s and Smith’s imperatives resonated over two days of sessions as CSL leaders, CSL staff, and distinguished guest speakers addressed topics such as “California Library Funding Programs,” “Pending State and Federal Legislations,” “On-Line Statewide Library Services,” “State Library Services,” and “Future CSL Initiatives.”

Many serious subject matters engaged the group. The audience listened attentively to the sessions, among which were:

  • Deputy State Librarian Cameron Robertson delineating the history of the Public Library Fund (PLF).

  • Library Development Services staff explaining Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding (what Hildreth calls “California’s venture capital”).

  • CLA President Danis Kreimeier calling for institutional memberships in the CLA.

  • Mark Smith calling on directors to be “experts in their communities.”

Diverse Districts – Diverse Needs

According to CSL Library Development Services Chief Tom Andersen, the orientation “was geared toward newer directors, but those wishing a refresher were welcome too.”  The mix of veterans, new directors, and deputies made the orientation conducive not just to formal instruction, but also to informal mentoring. Between sessions, attendees glimpsed distant California districts from other leaders’ stories; they picked-up funding tips; they exchanged business cards and management strategies.

Though the directors all were in Sacramento to hear about the CSL’s services, how they would use CSL tools and information in their districts varied widely.

Lisa Rutherford, director of the Banning Public Library, traveled to Sacramento to learn firsthand how the CSL could help her “rapidly expanding” district between Palm Springs and San Bernardino. Rutherford says “if the economy keeps growing our county officials project that our district’s population will double in the next 10-15 years,” a statistic that is prompting Rutherford “to do long-term planning.”

Because she will have to apply for a library construction grant for her growing district in the near future, Rutherford found Bond Act Manager Richard Hall’s presentation on the planning software Libris Design useful.

Lisa Musgrove of the Siskiyou County Library, some 723 miles north of Banning, came to Sacramento, like Rutherford, to learn how the CSL could help her library. Far from “growing” though, Musgrove reports Siskiyou County’s economy is struggling. The sparsely populated northern community (some branches such as Happy Camp and Tule Lake are 1 ½ hours from the Yreka main branch) must live with declining timber and mining industries and the cash draining proximity of tax-free Oregon.

“I’m here,” Musgrove said, “because my rural library is financially dependent on the state. I’m also very interested in the legislative aspect – in how the Governor and the legislature are going to be treating my library…”  The orientation, said Musgrove, allowed her to “wrap [her] head around” CSL funding sources such as e-rate, the PLF, and LSTA grants. It also helped her “remember that legislators can help rural libraries.”

At the orientation’s conclusion, Hildreth touched on future activities that will help public library directors. She talked about a collaborative statewide summer reading program in which participating libraries share marketing strategies, supplies, and logos. And, of primary interest to directors-in-training, she said the CSL would develop an executive component of CSL’s Public Library Staff Education Program in cooperation with San Jose State University’s Executive Master of Library and Information Science program for library managers and administrators.

For more information about the CSL’s services for public libraries and people who work in public libraries, please explore Services to Libraries on the CSL homepage, www.library.ca.gov



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