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February 20, 2007 > Extreme makeover - library style

Extreme makeover - library style

By Charlotte Flowers-Weston

There may have been a time when a youngster would definitely prefer a "Jamboree" to the library, but after Hayward Main Library's "extreme makeover" last summer, youngsters may beg to differ. Now, the library is a place of learning and enjoyment for everyone. Whether you enjoy reading books, listening to books, watching videos, surfing the web, or grooving to music CD's, the independent Hayward Public Library has it all.

Lisa Rosenblum has been library director for the City of Hayward since November of 2005 and since her arrival there have been a lot of wonderful changes. Although the latest renovations only took three weeks to complete, according to Rosenblum, months of planning preceded the work.

The director had previously gained valuable experience in planning and operations of San Jose State Library. Rosenblum said she enjoyed running that library, but felt she really wanted to be a director. "So when Hayward had an opening for a director, I applied for the job and got it," she says with her characteristic enthusiasm. "One of the things I said when I came here was this is a great library in a great community with a wonderful staff. But because I came from such a different library system that was very innovative, I felt that there were things we could do here to freshen it up and make it more customer-oriented."

Beginning with a concentrated effort to collect data on library resource usages and allocations, Rosenblum and her staff learned some interesting and revealing facts. She discovered that people wanted computers; however there were only 16, clustered in the middle of the front room, next to the film shelves and checkout lines. The location caused congestion because the computers were in use 95 percent of the time.

"We applied for a grant from the Gates Foundation and received money for additional computers. We doubled the number of computers and created a technology center and then I added some additional money from my budget to augment and get as many computers in there as possible," said Rosenblum. "Those computers are busy all the time."

Rosenblum said she also discovered that people really like to check out different media including DVD's, books on CDs, videos, and music CDs. "They still check out books but not as much because of the variety they have to choose from."

Walk into the library and it is almost like entering a Barnes and Noble bookstore thanks to more user-friendly shelving. Now you see new books right away, instead of having to dig into the collection. "A lot of people come in during lunch time and get a couple of DVD's or a new best seller; we've really made that a lot easier for them", said Rosenblum.

Perhaps the most popular innovation of all is the addition of self-service stations where customers can scan and checkout items for themselves. It's quicker and more convenient for many patrons and allows staff members more time to do what they are trained to do: assisting patrons in their research and learning, especially in the Technology Center. Here, staff members help patrons log onto the computers, locate and print documents, as well as other services. Rosenblum commented, "We need to strategically put our staff out in the best way they can serve the customer."

Speaking of technology, many patrons were unaware of the library's wireless Internet capability. Today, one of the first signs you'll see past the front doors highlights WiFi access.

Rosenblum notes, "Like any library anywhere we have budgets constraints and have to live within our means just like any family, so staff is working very hard but we want them to work in their skill set. Checking out each person's book or DVD is not the best use of their time when we have technology such as self-checks", said Rosenblum. "Even the children have their own self-check and they simply love it."

The old reference area is now a comfy reading area for magazines and newspapers. Customers can even bring drinks here, as long as they're covered.

Most teenagers tend to use computers in a different way than adults. They like to gather in groups and romp on social networks. Library planners created spaces with furniture and fixtures that are more teen friendly.

For children, Rosenblum sees a work-in-progress. She said a lot of energy was devoted last year to the first floor because, frankly, that needed the most work. She's excited that the library will soon have programs geared towards creating story time in a center where parents go from one station to another. Reading will be emphasized at every station.

Early literacy computers geared to children ages 5 to 8 are in the Children's Section located on the second level. "The children just love them", said Jenny Wu, supervising librarian of Youth Services.

With additional grant money, Rosenblum plans a child-oriented learning center. "We are going to be buying toys and manipulative puzzles, creating more of a family-friendly space. So if a mom or a caregiver comes in with a toddler, they can have access to that area," said Rosenblum

There will also be art projects and speakers on parenting topics. "It will be more of a holistic story time experience," said Rosenblum. "The attention spans of children don't always support traditional story time, especially for the younger ones. So we are adapting to how we provide services to meet their needs versus the traditional needs of the past,"

Everyone is invited to experience the new and improved Hayward Main Library, Monday through Saturday. Dense clusters of shade trees surrounding the building have been thinned so it is easier to see and brighter inside. Although outdoor renovations are in progress, don't let that deter a visit; Rosenblum and staff are ready and eager to serve the public with an impressive brand of modern library services.

Hayward Main Library
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
835 C Street; between Mission Blvd and Watkins Street
(It's only a short walk from Hayward BART station.)

Weekes Branch Library
Same hours as Hayward Main branch
27300 Patrick Avenue, Hayward
(Tennyson Road exit off Interstate 880.)

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