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Tim Myers: Something different - a positive story

Posted: February 26, 2010 5:20 p.m.
Updated: February 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
For the past many weeks, against the backdrop of a local election with accusations of secret cabals and unholy triumvirates - including a candidate's revelation of past misdemeanors that might disqualify them for certain security clearances and result in a red flag on most employer background checks - the engaged community got numbed with a tidal wave of bad news.

It seemed I, ever the eternal optimist, even waited for the other shoe to drop. Which would occur first? The total collapse of all local educational and municipal institutions due to budget Armageddon, or a conflagration started when the out-of-town crazies on both sides of the immigration issue showed up on Saturday for their rally opposing illegal immigration?

So many, including myself, will feel shock when they sit down to read this column, since I will give over this 750 words that for the last several months provided ink for even my Cassandra-like voice to talk about something very positive, the Los Angeles County Public Library system.

Talking negatively about the county seems proto-atypical of the Santa Clarita Valley. Many will remember a former Sunday Signal columnist who spent nearly every column deconstructing the corruption and evilness of county government, embodied in its enumerated anti-Christ, Supervisor Michael Antonovich, apparent representative of all evil in the world.

I am not above county criticism, but I must sing praises for the county's quality and accessible library system, with my primary interface the Valencia branch.

A Valencia conceit exists that the county library branch located in the Civic Center - at the corner of Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway - boasts not only the highest usage of the other county branches located in the Santa Clarita Valley, but the highest usage of any branch in the nearly 90-strong system. I cannot independently verify this probably apocryphal view, but a visit to the newly refurbished Valencia branch on a recent Sunday did not refute this assertion.

The Valencia branch, opened in 1972, recently underwent a refurbishment to its nearly 40-year-old physical footprint. Including some nice new carpet and a fresh coat of paint, the Valencia branch now supports a state-of-the-art library customer interface program, the final piece of a robust technology puzzle the library implemented since the beginning of this century.

For the last several years, the library system embraced various Web-based technologies to enhance their accessibility by the general public. A high-tech Web site allowed library patrons to search the entire system from any Web-enabled portal and set up items for hold and pickup at any library.

The system continuously improved this process, recently allowing patrons to sign up for automatic e-mail notifications when hold items became available or checked out items were almost due.

Many accuse government - and particularly the organs of municipal government - to eschew the adoption of technology forever.
Bureaucracy, the claim goes, destroys innovation and public employee unions will fight tooth and claw to prevent the adoption of efficiencies that might reduce or slow the growth of public employee headcount.

Not so the county library system. The refurbished library now contains eight brand-new self-check-out kiosks, similar to self-checkout stands in supermarkets.

We used the kiosks entirely on our visit last Sunday, with the help of a particularly enthusiastic and friendly young man facilitating the implementation of nearly complete self-service at the library.

I checked out two books on CD (one should never waste the opportunity of a long commute to make one well-read in the areas of fiction and other literature) - one from the Valencia branch and another ordered from a far-flung branch. Our youngest son checked out two books on pollution for a freshman composition paper.

Meanwhile, our grandson, whom I had charge of for the weekend, contented himself playing with Legos in the branch's friendly children's section.

So if you feel down and don't think anything works anymore in the city or county, I encourage you to visit the county library branch nearest you.

A strong possibility exists that our constant Cassandra-like howlings probably exaggerate the scope of negativity and doomsaying, but isn't that almost always the case?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.

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