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April 16, 2008 > Library Branch Manager Angela Yang bids farewell to Fremont

Library Branch Manager Angela Yang bids farewell to Fremont

For the past six years, the pleasant voice and smile of Angela Yang has been a fixture of the Fremont libraries. Her demeanor and focus on the community has guided this institution through significant changes and difficult fiscal times. Always upbeat and cheerful, Angela represents the dedication and concern of the staff and volunteers who have transformed modern libraries from quiet recesses often relegated to the corner of community consciousness to active and vibrant centers of activity with extensive resources for everyone.

No longer are libraries simply a selection of books for a few bibliophiles. The light and airy environment and myriad of materials are well used. Rooms are filled with all age groups, ethnic backgrounds and special needs and requests. People are busy reading, admiring artworks, selecting books (and periodical publications) including non-English collections and American Sign Language, DVDs, talking books and other materials working and playing on computers and using study rooms.

Activities entice the community to hear lectures, join how-to classes, take advantage of tutoring opportunities, watch movies, enroll in computer classes - even one in which teens teach seniors - and participate in much more. Libraries with personnel like Angela have moved to the center of community life and continue to expand their embrace of all its facets. Angela sums it up commenting that libraries, available to all, represent the true meaning of a free society.

Recently, Angela announced her retirement as of May 3, 2008. TCV met with her to ask about the Fremont libraries and her career as a librarian and future plans.

TCV: Are the Fremont libraries heavily used?

Yang: The Centerville Library is the fourth busiest library in the Alameda County Library system. There are ten libraries in our system and Fremont has four of them - Fremont Main, Centerville, Irvington and Niles. The others are Newark, Union City, Dublin, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley and Albany. Even though Centerville is only open two days a week, the per-hour circulation is right behind Dublin. Irvington is very busy with a per-hour circulation of 120 which is busier than San Lorenzo. At Fremont Main, we check out 600 items per hour which is the highest in the Bay Area. On a weekday, 2,300 to 2,500 people use this library - on Saturday, over 3,500. In February, we had a record 3,814. It is wonderful and also a challenge for the staff.

TCV: Is the bookmobile part of the system?

Yang: Yes. It is part of the county library system and heavily used.. About 40% of bookmobile stops are in the city of Fremont. The Fremont Main Library is only open six days a week and Irvington is open one day a week. From Central Park to the border with Santa Clara County, there are no libraries. Many of the bookmobile stops are in areas that are quite a distance from our libraries.

TCV: What programs are available for children at the library?

Yang: Everything from bicycle safety to teaching children how to be good story tellers. There is so much focus on academic achievement in our community - this is a place to learn life skills. Last month we had 72 programs for children: preschool story time, computer programs (we have computers for children too) and even movies for "tweens" age 8 - 13, music, math and science. We have become a community center.

TCV: How does the library interact with schools?

Yang: It is very important to interest children in reading. We have a program that emphasizes sharing our resources with teachers and letting them know that we consider ourselves partners with them. Children's Services is 51% of everything we do at the Fremont Main Library. We have a very close relationship with the school district, private schools and many programs for home school parents and children.

TCV: Are there other programs that reach out to children at school?

Yang: The Bookleggers go to schools to read books to the children. This program has volunteers who have been with it for 20 years. Last year, bookleggers read stories to 18,000 students.

TCV: Is the Fremont Main Library considered a large library?

Yang: We are considered a medium size library. Libraries are judged by the population served. The county library system serves about 500,000 people. In Alameda County there are separate city libraries not in our county library system. The book count in Fremont is about 430,000. All of our libraries together check out about 1.5 million items a year.

Libraries today are a lot more than just checking out our items. Digital databases allow us to do a lot more. People come for programs, quiet study, listen to a lecture or use or electronic resources either at home or here. The advantage of coming here is that help is close by if they need it. We offer classes for people to know how to use these resources effectively.

There is also the ability for borrowing between libraries in our consortium and a "link plus" system that allows the transfer of materials from libraries outside the state. For instance, if someone needs something from the Harvard library, we can access it. It only costs postage. Electronic items can be accessed immediately.

This is the best age for curious people. The advantage of library data bases is that they are organized. Information is so easily available that the challenge now is critical thinking - how to select from all the possibilities. We are in the business of information organization and, with all the additional programs, so much more.

TCV: Why did you become a librarian?

Yang: I always loved books and was very curious as a youngster. I grew up in Taiwan in a family that had twice been refugees. Reading materials were very precious to us and not abundant. I finished my undergraduate college education in Taiwan and looked to the United States for an advanced degree. I wanted to be an educator but changed my mind and entered library school instead. I have always been interested in how society works and how to provide education. Before I became a librarian, I was even a newspaper reporter for a little while. As a librarian, I have worked in many departments; as a children's librarian I was initially terrified of story time since I had never learned Western "Mother Goose" thinking it must be something very profound.

Later I became a branch manager [in San Diego] and became very involved in adult literacy, community outreach and worked as a volunteer tutor and master tutor trainer. I worked at the University of California at Irvine for 10 years before coming to Fremont in 2002. My interest has always been how to link resources with people which can be life changing. I have worked with wonderful mentors and they told me that in this profession you can really make a difference. When I arrived in Fremont I only knew one person, Linda Wood who hired me. Now I know so many people and feel fortunate that I have worked in this profession in such a unique area as Fremont. After all these years, I am still passionate about libraries and believe in their power.

TCV: What activities will you pursue in retirement?

Yang: Retirement will be active since I plan to volunteer with libraries, take classes and follow some of my other interests. I was a kayaking guide with the Newport Bay Interpretive Center; this type of opportunity may again be available to me. I also plan to travel quite a bit. My son lives in Washington, D.C. and I plan to move to that area. There will be a lot to do.

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