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Santa Clarita Public Library closes book on first year

City adds to inventory; some critics still wary of move

Posted: July 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Racine Rhambo, of Canyon Country, and Schalyn Rhambo, 7, read in the children's area at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library on Thursday.

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It’s been a year since Santa Clarita opened the doors to its new city library system following a controversial move to withdraw from the Los Angeles County library system.

During the city library’s first year, officials said they have purchased 65,000 new library materials, expanded the number of special programs and added new technology to its three branches.

Deputy City Manager Darren Hernandez said the library has an annual budget of $750,000 for new materials.

New technology includes new book and material sorters, new computers and RFID technology that allows patrons to check out several books at once at self-checkout stands.

The city aims to keep improving the technology at its libraries and is planning to add laptop dispensers at all three library branches soon, Hernandez said. Patrons will be able to use the laptops anywhere within the library using the library’s free Wi-Fi.

The city also completely reworked the children’s sections for both the Valencia and Canyon Country branches, Hernandez said.

The city’s statistics for the number of people using the Santa Clarita Public Library are comparable to the county’s statistics, Hernandez said. The three branches, while the county was running the system, had about 700,000 visitors with about 200,000 card holders, while the first year of the city-run library saw 704,402 visitors with about 52,865 cardholders.

The lower number of card holders was expected the first year, Hernandez said.

“As the number of card holders continues to grow, circulation and visits will also grow,” he said.

“The first-year statistics are outstanding and provide us with a very strong foundation on which to develop and grow library services in the coming years.”

The coming year will see the opening of the new Newhall Library, which scheduled for Sept. 29.

Satisfied patrons

During a visit to the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library last week, several patrons said they were first-time visitors and others said they were pleased with the changes that have been made to the libraries since the city took them over.

“There’s a lot more programs for the little kids here,” said Canyon Country resident Jessy Bogharian, who was at the library with her two boys Thursday. “It’s encouraging because they get rewards for completing goals.”

“I noticed the staff is a lot more helpful than it used to be,” said Racine Rhambo, who was at the library with her 7-year-old daughter Schalyn.

What opponents think

Not everyone is pleased with the new library, said Lori Rivas, an outspoken critic of the city library takeover. She said she still has concerns about how residents’ tax dollars are being spent, the quality of library service and what she calls lack of transparency and accountability for the city’s contracted library services with Library Systems & Services LLC.

She uses the county library while her husband uses the city library. Rivas said she boycotts the library because she’s opposed to a privately managed library system.

“There are continued concerns about how much of our tax money is leaving the state and being spent elsewhere,” Rivas said in an email. Library Systems & Services is headquartered in Maryland.

“Again, this is a lack of transparency, because — as a private company — LSSI is not required to open their books to the public to account for all expenditures.”

As a result of Santa Clarita awarding a contract to LSSI, Rivas said, she and other people who fought the library takeover are often contacted by libraries and communities across the nation — and even in England and Spain — asking for advice or thanking them for documenting the city’s actions.

“Most recently, a librarian from the city of Oceanside thanked us for our website and activism, saying that our information was pivotal to their community rejecting a bid from LSSI,” Rivas said.

kjonas@the-signal.com

661-287-5517

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