Clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher once said, “A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”
HIGH TECH LIBRARY. The Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library offers digital technology and old-fashioned reading help – all at one 21st century, modern facility. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Corrie Pelc
More than 100 years later, Google has made rifling through thick reference materials obsolete, and e-readers allow avid readers to download the latest novel with the click of a button.
Could it be then that the public library is not needed anymore?
Definitely not, says Brendle Wells, branch supervisor of the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library.
“I think people have a very outdated view of libraries – they think of them from their childhood and we’re not about just books anymore,” she says.
Opened in August 2010, the idea for the library took off in 2003, thanks to the efforts of then Sacramento City Councilman Robbie Waters. It took about six years for the Library to be built, according to Kathi Windheim, board member of the Friends of Pocket-Greenhaven Library.
Windheim refers to the Library as the “jewel of the Pocket” and “the hive” of the community.
“The parking lot is full every day when I drive by there,” she says. “I see it as ‘the hive’ with everybody going in and out – the moms taking their kids, the teens with WiFi to meet up, the seniors to check out the latest Lucky Day book. There’s something for everyone and it keeps changing as technology changes.”
The Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library has embraced technology from the beginning, starting with its modern eco-friendly design featuring numerous electrical outlets and 24/7 WiFi throughout the building. The free wireless Internet access also lets the Library provide a service to the entire community.
“There are a lot of people that do not have Internet access – we provide that free-of-charge,” Wells adds. “They may have a laptop but they can’t get WiFi and we provide that.”
The Library also features 20 public Internet access terminals and when those are all full, library patrons can check out one of 20 netbooks. Wells says the laptop computers are very popular, especially for parents to use while with their young children.
For those in need of some technology help, the branch’s “tech guru” Dave provides free one-on-one technology help to anyone who needs it.
“The very first appointment (Dave) had, he helped somebody with no computer skills learn how to fill out a job application online,” Wells says. “He’s helped people with e-readers use them with library books, helped people who just want to learn how to surf the Internet better – just pretty much anything he can help with.”
Technology is also important for the students from the next door School of Engineering & Sciences that frequent the library’s Teen Section after school. The area allows them to socialize, work on homework, and play computer games together. This has also spurred the library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB), which Windheim says has two representatives on the Library Board.
While technology is a main part of the library, that’s not to say reading is not. For early readers, the library offers the Ready to Read Room, offering hands-on activities to help with literacy learning.
“There’s a lot of activities that just build early literacy skills because early literacy skills have a number of different components – it’s not just reading,” Wells says. “The activities we have in there help build those skills.”
Reading Tower, mural
Readers of all ages can enjoy Windheim’s favorite section of the Library, the Reading Tower – a circular room with windows, padded seating, and a $20,000 commissioned mural that was a gift from the Friends of Pocket-Greenhaven Library to mark the Library’s first anniversary. The mural features pictures from literary treasures like Little Women, The Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island.
“It’s really neat just to sit there and watch the kids go in and their eyes just pop open,” Windheim says.
Your ‘Lucky Day’
For adult book readers, the Library features monthly staff picks. Wells says the library staff is always happy to make a reading recommendation. And if you’re looking for a bestseller, it may be your “lucky day.”
“One of the things the Friends of the Library sponsor are the Lucky Day books, the best sellers,” Windheim says. “You don’t have to sign up to be on a waiting list – if you come in and you see the book there, it’s your ‘lucky day’ and you can check it out for three weeks.”
The library offers a number of events throughout each month, everything from book and movie discussion groups to a knitting group to its popular Lego Block Party. In January, the library will be offering programs for the college-bound on scholarships and financial aid. In February the library will be launching an ancestry workshop, and in February and March there will be programs for those looking for employment. Wells says the library is always looking for community members to come in and host new programs as well.
LITERARY IMAGES. A $20,000 mural depicting characters from beloved childrens’ books is a feature of the Reading Tower at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library. The mural was a gift from the Friends of the Library, celebrating the library’s first anniversary last August. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Corrie Pelc
Become a Friend
As this modern library looks to continue to be a place for the community, Windheim says they need the community’s support to keep it going. Ways the community can help include purchasing books through the Friend’s bookstore in the Library and becoming a member of the Friends.
“With the budget cuts and economy, it would be a tremendous help for families of the Pocket to become Friends of the Library members to help us with the programs because we want to keep as many programs as we can,” she says.
Busier than ever
It’s the ability of the library to provide services and programs for everybody in the community that Wells says is one of the best things about the library.
“I think there are people who say libraries are obsolete, books are dead, and that is just not true,” she adds. “We’re getting busier and busier because people need us. We fill that digital divide.”
For more information on the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library and the Friends of the Pocket-Greenhaven Library, visit www.saclibrary.org.