Open spaces mean a lot to Santa Clarita residents and they not only support it at the ballot box, the requests for the Open Space design have overwhelmed the new system, leaving customers with only nine other pictures to choose from.
“It’s our most popular design,” said City Librarian Ed Kieczykowski during a recent vicit to the Canyon Country library. “We’re completely out.”
Those slowpokes who haven’t picked up their new cards can still choose from street art festival, Cowboy festival, Amgen tour or Veteran’s Plaza (which a library clerk said was running a close second as favorite) or a blue and green generic card as well as a few others.
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Kieczykowski said almost 20,000 cards have been issued since the city takeover of the libraries on July 1, which to him is a good indication that people are excited.
“Already Canyon Country is busier than they were in terms of gate counts and circulation than they were last year, it’s a busy branch and their programs have been very popular. July was a good time to kick off, because it’s the middle of summer reading,” he said.
“Most people who walk in say you can’t tell the difference,” he continued. “The one thing is that we have more new books. The city had $900 thousand to buy new operating day materials, so we beefed up a lot of the items; AV materials, children’s materials. We hope to continue to do that as we move through the year.”
Kieczykowski has been a library administrator for more than 30 years, working in both private and public settings in San Bernardino, Riverside and Solano Counties in California, as well as Ohio and New York.
When he heard about the chance to head Santa Clarita’s new effort, he jumped.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity take everything I’ve learned over the years to work with a company that could actually get things done quicker and faster,” he said. “It’s been enjoyable, the city’s great to work with. During library card registration, three-quarters of the city staff helped us tag materials or hand out library cards so we could be ready for July 1. I think there will be a lot of nice new things coming down the road.”
He’s seen a lot of changes in library operations and the evolution of book people in those three decades, and is champing at the bit to help promote technology in the branches.
“The city’s commitment to technology is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “Our computers are bigger, nicer, faster and have increased bandwidth. You can download from our website (santaclaritalibrary.com), Kindles are still proprietary, but Amazon has announced it will be going to an open source, at some point everyone will be able to download everything to anything.”
He remembers being in classrooms and hearing that libraries would soon be extinct, but he never believed that.
“E-books are tremendously popular. Last year was the first year that e-books outsold hard copy books, however, we still have book people and will continue to have book people for a long time. The two formats are not incompatible with each other. Some people like to have the tactile, hold the book others like to utilize the media, they’re both fun.”
His college years took him from bones to books, in what he says is a typical librarian turn.
“Like most people, I had a degree and didn’t’ have a clue what I was going to do with it,” he explained. “I had a degree in archaeology, I could get a doctorate and teach, but I didn’t want to do that. I was working part-time in a library, I liked helping people and it was a good atmosphere. I got a scholarship to get my masters degree if I would agree to come back and work for the company.
“That’s how a lot of people get into libraries, there are very few people who want to be librarians since they were four years old,” he concluded.
He finds the variety of materials in libraries to be the most exciting; not only can you have the tactile feeling of the stacks, you can use the internet in ways you may never have imagined.
“I remember sitting through classes when the people talked about how the internet would do away with libraries. The reality is that the internet made libraries more effective and more relevant to people. You can utilize your library card to check out materials, or to download things for your PC or portable device. We can see who uses what.
“The overlap between people who check out books and use electronic resources is only 15 percent. You have two distinct audiences and that’s the challenge. A lot of things are happening.”
Even though he’s seen all kinds of people come and go through his library doors, he said there’s no such thing as a “typical” library patron.
“There are so many subsets in each community, in terms of socioeconomics, technical knowledge or the ability to know what’s on a best seller list. There is a completely different clientele from Canyon Country to Valencia. We have a great number of teens in Canyon Country, but not quite so many. I’m the new kid, is it demograpics or the number of schools close to the library. Then there are people who want best sellers, or books for family reading or picture books for kids.”
The early learning – early literacy environment excites him and one of his goals for this year is to get computers for early literacy installed in the children’s sections.
What encourages him is seeing parents involved in their children’s reading.
“Parents want to have a hand in guiding their child, and that’s a responsibility we place on them,” he said. “We can’t be the arbitrator. We do see that involvement.”
Which brings up the issue of censorship – will conservative voices overwhelm the greater good of the community?
“It’s not as prevalent as it used to be,” he explained. “I once got a complaint about (Steinbeck’s) “Of Mice And Men,” the parent couldn’t believe his high school student would be exposed to that language.”
“We’re so saturated in terms of ability to see things everywhere, you can get inappropriate materials on the internet, on TV, it’s not as big a concern but it does go back to the parents, they obviously need to decide what’s appropriate for their child.”
“When you explain that we have a selection policy that needs to provide materials to everybody in society, all different facets in life; just because you believe it’s appropriate for your child, or your husband or your wife, doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate for someone else. Once you explain that, they’re usually OK.”
To that end, Kieczykowski said that residents can always suggest purchases for library materials on the website, adding that they have purchased just about everything that has been suggested. “Usually if one person wants it, another person wants it and it goes from there. The collection becomes reflective of the community.”
His staff is a blend of new and former county employees, some from the library system, some even followed him from San Bernardino County.
“It’s been kind of fun, they can trade stories about how they did it where they were before, of course, there will be growing pains, but my staff enjoys the synergy,” he said.
“Some new freedoms are being enjoyed by former county employees,” he added, smiling.
“It’s a positive thing for the community, I am in one of the best positions to judge that this is a good thing,” he said. “I have worked in government for a lot of years, and there are so many rules and regulations that we have to have in place that cost money, staff time, it’s better than we can do this directly.”
“We’re saving overhead, eliminating some layers of bureaucracy that run up costs that could be better spent on other things, such as directly on people, technology and materials.”