Yes we CAN solve the Santa Ana library shortage!

I did not speak English as I was growing up.  My parents came here from Mexico and while my father quickly learned English by going to night school, my mom had not been here very long when I was born and she was just learning English herself.  I recall that she took ESL classes from a group of nuns at a local church.

My parents knew that English proficiency was key to surviving in this country.  So while my parents spoke to me in Spanish most of the time, my mom made me watch Sesame Street and the Electric Company on TV.  Other TV programs I recall watching were Captain Kangaroo and something called “Hobo Kelly.”

But TV can only do so much.  My mom started taking me to public libraries when I entered Kindergarten.  And something clicked. At the time we were attending Seventh Day Adventist churches.  That particular religion is very much focused on reading the Bible.  By the 2nd grade I had read the entire King James Bible, cover to cover. I then got bored and moved on to other religions.  By the 4th grade I had read most of the adult books at my local library in the Greek, Roman and Norse mythology sections.  And my teachers began to give me negative grades for writing in archaic English!  And I was banned from my school’s annual spelling bee after the 4th grade when I kept beating everyone, including the 8th graders.  I still mispronounced a lot of words, but I knew how to spell them and I knew what they meant.

I eventually began to write in modern English but by then I was absolutely hooked on reading.  I could not read enough.  I would read everything I could get my hands on.  When we visited my dad’s mother I would read all the National Geographic magazines in her house.  And all the Reader’s Digest magazines too.

I started reading the newspaper too.  My dad loved sports – at the time I followed the Dodgers but that was about it.  But I devoured the rest of the newspaper on a daily basis.  And I still kept up my Spanish.  My parents used to buy me little comic books in Spanish – and I realized that if you can speak Spanish you can read it with ease.

By the time I got to high school I was reading science fiction.  A friend of mine used to bring me a different sci-fi book every two or three days.  I read the entire Dune series in one week (at the time there were three very thick volumes in that series).

My experience with libraries is why I am such a huge library advocate.  Today in the City of Los Angeles there are over 70 public libraries.  In Santa Ana we have one public library and one learning center.  That’s it for a city with over 400,000 residents.  Is it just me or is that CRAZY?

Our city has a largely Latino population – and we have a lot of Asian immigrants too.  We are vastly underserving our community – and this is a population that really needs libraries.

The answer you hear from City Council members and Mayor Miguel Pulido is that we just don’t have the money to open more public libraries.  Duh!  We can’t afford to open more traditional libraries, so why even try do to so?

The answer, in my estimate, is to open “Micro-Libraries.”  Here’s how I envision this plan working:

  1. The Micro-Libraries would make use of the empty storefronts in our city.  We could negotiate cheap rent from the landlords as these Micro-Libraries would bring badly needed foot traffic to their shopping centers.
  2. We can open Micro-Libraries strategically all over the city, so that folks can walk to them.
  3. A Micro-Library would not try to be a regular library.  It would feature a selection of modern reading material for all ages, but primarily for schoolchildren.  And there would be 5 to 10 computer stations in each Micro-Library as well as free wireless Internet service.
  4. One way to keep the budget low would be to NOT hire librarians to staff these Micro-Libraries.  Instead the plan would be to hire one or two adults who would not need advanced education and then staff out the library with high school and junior college students.  And volunteers.  Anyone can learn to sort books – you don’t need a library degree to run a Micro-Library.  And our local high school and junior college students need meaningful part time jobs.
  5. When librarians would be needed, they could be accessed from a computer workstation via Instant Mail.  The librarians at the Main Library could easily fill this role.
  6. The Micro-Libraries would NOT need much in the way of reference books.  Not when you can go online and get whatever you need.  For free.
  7. But let’s say that a student needed a book not offered in the Micro-Library.  No problem.  The book would be ordered from the Main Library.  A daily courier would bring the books from the Main Library to the Micro-Libraries on a daily basis.
  8. You could easily staff the Micro-Libraries with one or two people.  The computers would be highly secured.  The city could install video cameras, for cheap, and monitor the Micro-Libraries from the Main Library via online security programs.

We CAN solve the library crisis in Santa Ana – we could open a dozen of these Micro-Libraries next year.  It would not cost much.  We could prevail on our business community to sponsor the Micro-Libraries.  I bet we could get most of the computers donated.  Would the Micro-Libraries make a difference?  You bet.

How many little kids out there in our big city are waiting for “something to click” and not getting the opportunity? Pulido has been in office for over 20 years and almost NOTHING has been done to improve our library system.  Why?  Not because we can’t but because we lack the political will to make this happen.

If you are waiting for our current City Council members and Mayor to get creative, don’t hold your breath.  But throughout the next week I am going to offer suggestions on how to solve other problems in our city.  I have a plan that WILL solve our shopping cart problem -at NO public expense.  I have a plan to increase our police presence in our city by 50% for MUCH less than you would think.  And I have a plan to attack our graffiti problem too.

My critics say I am just a blogger.  But the reality is I am not a career politician.  I am a creative thinker and thinking creatively is what we need in this city.  We CAN get out of the hole we are in.  But not by doing the same things that have not been working for the last 20 years.  Doing the same thing, that does not work, and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  It is time to stop the insanity in Santa Ana!

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.