Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives

Dear Santa Monica,

We are the LOLS (Laid Off Librarians of Santa Monica). We were your colleagues and friends. We spent more of our time together with you than with most of our families. We think it’s crazy that we’re parting ways without having an opportunity to advocate for ourselves and our jobs, so for our last act we’d like to remind you who you’ve lost.

Delia Galan

My name is Delia and I have worked in public libraries for just over nine years. The public library was my first volunteering experience, my first job, and what I would hope to be my job for the foreseeable future. I may have only worked at SMPL for one year and just over three months, but I brought a lot of passion and experience to the job. The library is a second home for me, as it is for many of our patrons. I feel so comfortable helping people find information and books, getting to know them on a first-name basis, and building relationships with them to create lifelong library users.

In my short time at SMPL, I designed and hosted 18 adult/community programs, some of which you may have attended. These included the Race Relay discussion during Santa Monica Reads last year; Empowerment Self-Defense, The Biggest Little Farm movie screening and discussion, and a soup-making class with The Gourmandise School. I also hosted 20 Spanish story times at Fairview Branch.

It was my absolute pleasure to bring in new and exciting programming for the community and to be there for the yearly traditions such as Santa Monica Reads and SMPL at the Beach. It is with a heavy heart that I must say goodbye to you and to my colleagues. It was my plan to proudly serve Santa Monica for the next five or more years of my life. I came in with such enthusiasm to work for what has been widely known as one of the better and more progressive cities in the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, as the pandemic affected the world, it affected the City of Santa Monica too. I wish the absolute best to City residents, and hope you continue to thrive with the limited resources you have left. Please take care of my remaining colleagues and your libraries.

Simran Khalsa

My name is Simran.  I’ve worked for SMPL since 2001, when I was hired as a Page, my first library job. I have worked at SMPL from then until now. During that time I went to library school, got my Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS), applied for and was hired as an As-Needed Librarian in 2007, and finally hired as a permanent half-time Reference Librarian in 2010. I have worked at four of the five SMPL branches, and taught computer classes at all of them. I purchased the adult science fiction collection for the entirety of my permanent tenure, and spend my own time attending one or more social justice-oriented speculative fiction conventions each year. I also helped purchase various nonfiction collections including test prep, philosophy, religion, and supplemental adult nonfiction collections for SMPL branches.

My strongest skill is explaining things to people in ways they understand, including things I know nothing about until I look them up when asked. I help people to better and more easily use the library, library resources (like e-books!) and the infrastructure of the world around them. I have assisted thousands of people over the years in person and via phone, chat, and email. I’ve helped people find countless books. I’ve taught people to use library computers and their own devices through teaching classes such as Computer Basics and Microsoft Word, as well as developed and taught classes I thought were important the community such as Fake News, and Cybersecurity for Parents. I’ve assisted in classes SMPL offered on newer technologies like Raspberry Pi and 3D printing. For the past several years I’ve also specialized in assisting nonprofits with Candid’s Foundation Center Online Professional database.

For the past year I have participated in an experimental new model for how the library deploys and schedules its workforce, and my experience and feedback will directly impact the changes you are about to see in the library’s future services.

I made the conscious decision to try to be a positive presence as much as I could. It has sometimes been hard, but it is a practice I will continue wherever I land, a practice that I hope those who remain will continue, and that I hope community members who use the library will also try to practice. Be kind, everyone.

Barbara Fleeman

My name is Barbara and I’ve had the privilege of working at SMPL since 2010 as both a Reference and Public Services Librarian. My mission as an adult-services librarian was to inspire grownups to try new experiences and unleash their often-dormant creative sides. A senior who learned to play the ukulele at the library said it was “life changing.” A woman crafting alongside other adults said it was “better than happy hour.” My program participants learned skills such as how to search the internet, do origami and quilling, arrange flowers, start a blog, swing dance, and make sauerkraut and preserved lemons. Most gratifying was working on events that brought together the talents of multiple staff from every library department, like Free Comic Book Day, Caturday and Dog Days.

In addition to helping people find books and information on a daily basis, I’ve helped shape our top-notch collections, drafted the Library’s homeless services plan, started the SMPL newsletter and engaged the community via social media.

Librarianship has been an amazing and rewarding second career for me, and I am grateful for my time here and for my wonderful co-workers, who have taught me so much and inspired me to try new experiences. Ten years ago last week, at the age of 46, I received my MLIS from UCLA. I got a late start in this game, but these budget cuts will likely end my library career early. I wish you all the best going forward. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Hanako Moondance

My name is Hanako Moondance and I have been an employee with the Santa Monica Public Library since 2007, first as a Page, then as an As-Needed Librarian, and finally as the Youth Services Librarian at the Ocean Park Branch Library. But my relationship with SMPL reaches further back than 2007. I was born and raised in Santa Monica and I can confidently say that the support I received from the Santa Monica Public Library is what led me to a career in libraries.

There is so much that I have been a part of during my time at SMPL. From involvement in the How-To, Arts & Literacy, and Fierce Friday teen book festivals to a multitude of story times – in English, in Spanish, in the Community Garden, in pajamas – the opportunities I have had to give back to this community have been endless. I take pride in my journey into the Youth Services field and have had the opportunity to work with some of the most inspirational people in our work to support children, families and the community as a whole. My most recent involvement on the Equity Team gave me a chance to put into words what it means to be part of the face of a community that strives to remove barriers in order to support those most vulnerable. I have achieved these great strides amidst personal growth – starting as a twenty-something fresh out of college, then becoming a community helper, a mother, a library-degree holder.

This reflection comes at a time of deep sadness as my position, as well as many others in the library and other City of Santa Monica divisions, have been cut. Maybe I should feel sad on a personal level that my years of service with the City as an employee are reduced to but a number. But I know that I am still a librarian, a community member, a person who is determined to learn and grow and advocate for equity and joy for all. What hurts most is what will be left – a city ill-prepared to support those who will be in need of a myriad of services.

When I consider how much the library has nurtured me as a patron, I mourn what the community will not have in this dire time of need. The library is not only losing my colleagues, but the community members who helped me raise my children through story time, programming, and inclusion. It is not lost on me that with the cuts to library and City services, it is largely employees of color and Santa Monica citizens of color who are affected in the wake of national and local cries of equity and justice for these very same people. The movement towards social justice will be hindered by these decisions for decades to come.

I would like to recognize how as big as this change is – for all of my colleagues, the library, the city, the community –  it is such a small piece of what we are all dealing with right now. It feels unfair to not have the time and space to mourn such deep and lasting impacts.

To my colleagues who still have their jobs at the library: Somewhere in the future, I am holding space for you, for the work you will be asked to do, for the discomfort that you feel returning to work with half of what SMPL used to be.

To those laid off: You are a continued inspiration, your talents know no boundaries, and I am holding each of you in my heart. This city, this library will always be definitive to the person that I have become. It is difficult to know that it will never be the same again. All I can do is breathe, make space for change, and tell myself that my life, my Black life, matters.

Ingha Chopra

Over the last few months, much discussion about the City of Santa Monica’s massive layoffs has focused on numbers, but numbers do not tell the real story.  My name is Ingha Chopra, I am a resident of the City of Santa Monica, a mother, a wife, and a librarian whose job was cut overnight. I am a person, not a number.

Since 2014, I’ve had the honor to serve my local neighborhood and community as the Youth Services Librarian at SMPL’s Montana Branch. Every time I stepped into the branch, from my first day on the job until I went in to clean out my desk, I felt gratitude for the opportunity to advocate for learning and literacy within my community. I shared story times and specialized programs that were often filled to capacity, and I would see an average of 200+ children and their caregivers every week.

The timing of my termination is especially painful as June is my favorite month to serve the community. In June, for the last six years, I’d serve as an ambassador for SMPL by doing outreach visits to Franklin and Roosevelt elementary schools to promote SMPL’s Summer Reading Program. I relished in the chance to interact with almost 1,000 local children over three days. Most of the faces were familiar and I loved seeing how the local kids grew from year to year. Some of the kids would be excited to see me at their school, and I hope they know how excited I was to see them with their friends and teachers!

Summer has always been a joyous time at the library. The Montana Branch would buzz with excitement, with frequent visits from motivated children ready to read and win books!  I will never forget the excitement in the children’s voices when they reached their reading goal, their surprise when I would run into their families during a stroll around the Montana neighborhood near my home, the delight in their faces when they cuddled with trained therapy dogs for our annual Paws to Read program, or their pure happiness during our summer performers’ shows. Seeing kids excited about the library, reading, and learning was always the best part of my job. These moments have enriched my professional and personal life and I will cherish them forever.

I truly loved my job, my library, my coworkers, and my library community. My job was not just a number – it was a beautiful part of my life’s story. I will miss you all and just wish I had the opportunity to say thank you and give a proper goodbye.

Vanessa Alvarado

My name is Vanessa and I have worked with the Santa Monica Public Library since November 2001.  I have kind of a funny story when it comes to my employment with the library.  At the time, I was attending Santa Monica College, and I would frequent SMPL on almost a daily basis to study, do research and use the computer to type up assignments or for internet access. One day when I went to Circulation to check out, this person sitting behind the desk said to me, “Why don’t you just get a job here? You’re here all the time.” A light bulb went on in my head, and I said to him, “You know what? I am.”  The next time I went to the library I asked a couple of people I had come to know who worked there how I could apply.  They suggested I go ask in the Periodicals department, so I did, was given an application and I submitted it the next day.  I was called back for an interview shortly after and was hired a few days later.  I was elated! 

I was born and raised in Santa Monica and I had frequented the library as a child with my brothers and sisters.  I remember attending programs and participating in the Summer Reading Program and simply using the library for books and reading while lounging on the colorful cushions they had upstairs in the Children’s department. I borrowed books, magazines, and even VHS tapes (OMG, yes! Movies on VHS – back when the rental was $1.00 per movie checkout.).

More recently, I became a professional librarian and served as the librarian in my local neighborhood at the Pico Branch Library. That was my favorite of the many jobs I have held. I was able to use my English/Spanish bilingual skills to assist patrons and conduct story times, where I would get to read, sing and play with the best audiences. Kids, parents and caregivers would come and listen to stories and learn songs every week; that brought joy and made my job super rewarding. I had the opportunity to work on other projects and develop programs, like LEARN, our after-school program offering reading and homework help from amazing volunteers. The many festivals and events held in the adjacent Virginia Avenue Park – like the Fall Festival, Arts & Literacy, Greens Festival, and the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration – were fun and brought the community together through engaging activities for families. 

I have learned so much these past 18 years working in Periodicals, Circulation and at all five branches at one point or another. I have come to know the people of the community who have been part of the library and learned what their needs/wants are, and how to provide them with the best service and resources.

It is sad that my story with SMPL ends right when I felt I was really getting started.  I hold much love for SMPL and those who have helped my development as librarian and as a person. I am thankful for the lasting friendships with co-workers and colleagues.  My most sincere hope is that SMPL will have a bright future and I wish continued success to all that remain, especially when tasked with the huge responsibility to respond to community needs during the rebuild after this crisis is over.

Julia Rose

My name is Julia and I’ve worked at Santa Monica Public Library for over five years. In that time, I’ve led countless youth programs – so many of which I am incredibly proud.

First, I want to say thank you. When I started at the library I knew so little about librarianship or the kind of librarian I wanted to be. Not only did the library take a chance on me but you encouraged me to try new things and create a space for youth and families to learn and grow. I once turned a blowup swimming pool into a giant sensory bin and got shredded paper everywhere, I covered a room in paper and gave paint and brushes to babies, I taught science concepts to preschoolers and their families, I threw a birthday party for Hello Kitty. I’ve watched families grow, babies take their first steps, and kids learn new skills. I was one of those lucky people who loved their job so much it hardly felt like work.

I want our patrons, and especially my families, to know that they were my favorite part of the job. It gave me such joy to speak with them at the desk, to answer their questions, to find their next book or books for their little one’s latest obsession, and to get to know them.

Finally, I want to tell you that I’ll miss you. That you are some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Coming to work each day meant getting to do a job that I love with people who inspire and motivate me. I’ll miss learning from you and collaborating with you. I’ll miss visiting you and chatting with you. I’ll miss seeing whatever amazing thing you’re going to do next.

I always tell people that the library world is small.  I can’t wait to see you all again. 

Jeff Kaplan

My name is Jeff, and for the last 12 years, my entire career, I’ve proudly served the City of Santa Monica as a Reference Librarian. I’ve taught hundreds of free computer classes. I’ve maintained the library’s science, applied science, periodicals, popular music, and adult e-book collections. I’ve answered thousands of questions from the public, helped people find jobs, connected the un-housed to social services, and helped senior citizens learn to navigate the digital world. I was part of a dream team of coworkers that grew the library’s social media presence from nothing to over 13,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 6,000 on Twitter. We used those platforms to loudly promote literacy, social justice, community, and lots of cats. Five years ago I joined forces with my colleague Kane Tsay, to launch Southern California’s first beachside pop-up library, bringing free books and fun programs to local beaches every summer. Recently, I worked with the fabulous folks in Out in Santa Monica and the library’s Equity Think Tank to combat homophobia, transphobia, and racism in our community.

I never imagined my time here would end this way, laid off with a third of my colleagues in the middle of a global pandemic and recession. I’m angry that the City would treat longtime employees so brutally. I’m disappointed that they tossed their liberal values out the window as soon as money was on the line. But mostly I’m sad to leave my library family behind. I’ve learned so much from you, and no matter what comes next, you’ll always be a part of me.

Myleen DeJesus

My name is Myleen and I have spent nearly one-third of my life as a Youth Services Librarian for SMPL. Since there exists a notion that librarians get to sit and read in a quiet room all day, I want to share with you what elements were part of my work. I conducted weekly story times for babies, toddlers and preschoolers; did countless reference shifts on the Youth Services desk helping to find books, answer questions, assist with technology or guide research; and led class and group visits. I also helped with computing programs, training the SMPL Tech Teens volunteers, and coordinating large events like the annual teen book festival Fierce Friday and the Summer Reading Program. I led Family Game Nights and LEGO programs. I was the librarian who brought Instagram to SMPL.

My work also included scheduling and training teen volunteers weekly for 11 years, coordinating meetings and programs for the SMPL Teen Advisory Council, visiting schools and preschools, outreaching to community groups, training future librarians during internships, and chairing outside committees that advocated for reading and resources. If you checked out a youth (for kids or teens) DVD or CD or graphic novel, that was me, selecting material for the entire library system. If you received information about youth programs from the web, that was me too, as the only dedicated Youth Services staffer actively creating and editing web content. And recently, most of the youth e-books and e-audiobooks you’ve been checking out … yep, me again.

My work was rarely quiet, and I loved it. Every day was a new puzzle to solve and an ever-changing world of information to navigate. I was part of team of considerate, thoughtful, caring colleagues who helped shape the librarian I became and the community we helped. And just FYI, most of the daily reading involved emails. Any pleasure reading was done outside of work or while sitting in traffic, listening to an audiobook. As you can probably tell from what you’ve read so far, we’re far too busy to sit around reading books at work.

Since 2008 I have worked with hundreds of teen volunteers and conducted a thousand story times for pre-readers (with some becoming my teen volunteers years later). I am proud to have worked with a generation of youth, who I know will/have become civic-minded, empathetic adults. I am proud of my contribution to the SMPL culture and the Santa Monica community.

Every person who is getting let go handled a complex set of responsibilities. Every Youth Services Librarian but two in the SMPL system will be gone. I’ll say it again. Every Youth Services Librarian except two, for the whole SMPL system, will be gone. The impacts of this will be felt for a long time.

I want you to know that I am not just a statistic. I celebrated the accomplishments of your children. I shared thousands of titles and smiles with this community, young and old. A colleague said it best: “I feel like I’m being forced out of my own home” because SMPL is like family in many ways. And now, it hurts and saddens me to have to go this way, since I did not have a say. Be safe, be kind, and good luck.

Christa Muscatine

My name is Christa, and I’ve been a Youth Services Librarian at SMPL since 2008. Throughout my years as a Youth Services Librarian with SMPL, I have presented probably hundreds of story times.  Each week I took careful time to think about how I was going to impart early literacy skills in a creative way.  Whether it was using puppets, instruments, or taped music to move to, I always had a wonderful time incorporating something fun.

The skill I employed the most at SMPL is creativity.  In addition to story times, I have probably presented over 300 special programs.  I collaborated with lots of community partners to bring the children of Santa Monica exciting experiences such as exploring a real fire truck, touching sea life from tanks brought to the library, taking a ballet lesson, participating in a Japanese Tea ceremony, and many, many more.  Bringing together the elements for these programs has been a joy, and the appreciation expressed by families for these programs has made all the hard work worthwhile.

I have so many wonderful memories! Before every story time began, I would look forward to seeing children’s faces light up with recognition when they saw me in anticipation of the fun we would have in the next 20-30 minutes.  It always made me feel like a part of my patrons’ families, especially when a child would try to climb into my lap during story time!  Looking out on the sea of smiling children’s faces always made a gray day bright.

Teachers and classes also showed much appreciation for the many visits they had with us at the library.  Whether through scavenger hunts, resource presentations, story times, or outreach visits, the schools of Santa Monica loved these visits.  One of my favorite memories is receiving a giant thank you card from St. Monica Elementary School during a class visit.  It really made me feel like our team was doing something good.

Summer Reading also brings lots of wonderful memories.  Throngs of children coming to the library for programming and to redeem their reading logs was an exciting reminder of how much the library meant to our families.  For many years the library would erect the infamous red inflatable dinosaur we named “Chompers” behind the Youth Reference Desk.  Each year he would sport an outfit that matched the reading program’s theme.  Booking and watching the Summer Reading shows for the past 10+ years has also been rewarding.  The acts could be silly, educational, and lots of things in between but they were always entertaining and I really enjoyed getting to know the performers.  The best part was hearing all the thank-yous from families at the end of the programs.

Finally, there were lots of special programs that bring back many memories, including our May Mother’s Day programs, the Angelina Ballerina Tea Party, the Fancy Nancy Mother’s Day Tea Party, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony we did with bento boxes (created by members of our very own Teen Advisory Council).  There are many other program memories that I cherish, mainly for the opportunity to work with such amazing co-workers.  Examples of these would be the yearly Harvest Festivals, Stuffed Animal Sleepovers, Star Wars Day programs and Christmas Gingerbread House decorating programs. 

I love and will miss you all!

Debbie Glasser

My name is Debbie and I have worked for the Santa Monica Public Library since 2014.

I have had a long and positive history with SMPL. From the time I was a toddler, I spend a lot of time at the library, and attended story times at the Ocean Park Branch. I always, in the back of my mind, dreamed of becoming a librarian, and always envisioned myself working at SMPL. After a decade staying at home with my children (and enjoying countless hours at the library with them) I decided to go back to school fairly late in life, to become a librarian, while working as a Page at the Pico Branch. After finishing my degree, I was thrilled when SMPL gave me my first job as an As-Needed Librarian. I later found a permanent position in another library system, but always held on to my part-time job at SMPL. I was even more thrilled when SMPL offered me a permanent position as a Youth Services Librarian. I had many duties, and ran a variety of programs, but one that I felt had a particularly powerful community impact is the L.E.A.R.N (Learn, Excel, And Read Now) program, which offers free reading and homework help.

After finally achieving my goal of a permanent full-time position at SMPL, I received a layoff notice one year later.

I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Thankfully, I was able to work through numerous surgeries and many months of chemotherapy. My job with SMPL kept me focused, and I truly believe that knowing that I was contributing to my community aided in my recovery. The fact that the City is unwilling to offer its laid-off employees extended healthcare benefits has hit me particularly hard.

Besides the fact that I will miss my job and my wonderful colleagues, I am sad that the library that has been such a valuable resource to me throughout my life has been so decimated by budget cuts and layoffs, and that the community, in a time of such great need, will not have access to the library services that I was fortunate enough to enjoy.

Sincerely, The Santa Monica Public Library Laid-Off Librarians Club