VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK — Soon, possibly this month, the first new  neighborhood library in the city in more than 50 years will open at Virginia Avenue Park.

The Pico Branch of the library is undergoing the finishing touches and filling out its 25,000-item collection. City librarians hope to see the space soft open later this month with an official opening ceremony scheduled for June 28.

The Pico Neighborhood Library is nearly complete and could open later this month. It is located at Viginia Avenue Park. (Brandon Wise brandon@smdp.com)

The Pico Neighborhood Library is nearly complete and could open later this month. It is located at Viginia Avenue Park. (Brandon Wise brandon@smdp.com)

The library, built at a cost of over $11 million, will reflect not only the diverse Pico Neighborhood but also the campus on which it sits and the technology of the digital era, said Branch Manager Cecilia Tovar.

The new library will integrate with the Virginia Avenue Park youth programs, which are already strong in the area, bolstering the goal of achieving literacy.

“At least half if not 60 percent of the focus is on childrens’ programs and children at the library,” said Susan Annett, principal librarian for public and branch services.

The library is already running a kid’s book club through Virginia Avenue Park, said Carla Fantozzi, who is in charge of the park programs. They hope to link up with the library for reading programs at their summer camps.

The branch collection will lean more toward popular rather than research material, which is plentiful at the Main Library, Annett said.

There will be a Spanish collection and also a section of large print for those with poor eyesight.

But city librarians also recognize that libraries are changing along with the digital world. Library experts are focused on creating workspaces and integrating with technology, Tovar said.

The Pico branch will have a library bar where the public can sit and work, she said.

“People can come with their own devices and laptops,” she said. “It kind of gives that sense of a cafe, like that Starbucks kind of feeling.”

The collection will include e-books and DVDs. Twenty public computers will be available at the branch and online databases — rather than rows of encyclopedias — will serve as reference material.

Tovar is planning programming that will teach residents how to use their new devices or search those online databases.

“The Internet will give you the most popular answer,” she said. “You still need to know what you’re looking for and how to find the right information. I think the databases offer a lot and librarians can definitely help with that.”

“One of the goals of our classes is to lead people to the authoritative source rather than, say, Googling your medical question,” Annett continued. “I think a lot of us do that, including myself, but the Mayo Clinic has a wonderful database. Of course they should always contact their doctors but it can help formulate the questions that they might have to ask their doctors.”

Technology is making things easier for librarians as well. The Pico branch will have an electronic book-sorter. Self checkout will be a central feature. Residents can pay their fines online.

Before taking over the Pico library, Tovar was the branch manager in Arizona near the border of Mexico. There were more farm workers and people crossing the border using that library, she said.

“I think the approach is a little different,” she said. “Here the communities are more diverse. But the goal is the same idea. We all want to increase literacy and inform people.”

 

dave@smdp.com

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