American Library Association President Loida Garcia-Febo is hitting all the hot spots on her “Libraries = Strong Communities” national library tour, including Miami, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. But, first, she made one very important stop at Library 21c in northern Colorado Springs, kicking off her tour.
Essential library services help knit together the fabric of our varying communities, said Garcia-Febo during an Oct. 5 after hours event at Library 21c, sponsored by Pikes Peak Women. She also stressed the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries “want to meet the needs of communities and serve all different populations.”
Garcia-Febo said she chose to visit Colorado Springs because of the Pikes Peak Library District’s “stellar system, and a large one;” and the presence of “the military and many faith organizations” in Colorado Springs. “And it’s beautiful,” she added with a smile.
Garcia-Febo’s visit to the Pikes Peak area included programs and speeches at PPLD’s Sand Creek branch in Colorado Springs’ southeast quadrant, and at the High Prairie branch in the rural area near Falcon. At Sand Creek, a Culture Mash event delighted her with booths representing various groups in the community, and the Puerto Rican-born Garcia-Febo said she relished being able to speak Spanish with a fellow librarian at Sand Creek.
Former mayor of Colorado Springs, Mary Lou Makepeace, a member of the Pikes Peak Women (PPW) at the event, asserted PPW joined to host the ALA President for the evening event, because they like to promote what will “provoke people to think,” as well as “inform and inspire.”
During the Q & A portion of the night, one audience member asked Garcia-Febo and PPLD Chief Librarian and CEO John Spears: “What kind of issues and challenges keep you up at night?”
The two talked about issues related to maintaining intellectual freedom and access to information for all, “so important for our democracy.” Garcia-Febo mentioned the very recently passed Marrakesh Treaty. The legislation will provide for copyright exception for “authorized entities” — including libraries — to greatly increase availability of accessible reading materials to Americans and people around the world with print disabilities.
Another audience member asked for data to share with neighbors or friends about where the library’s budget goes.
“We need to do a lot more education,” to inform taxpayers of how much and what the library does and how it adds to the community, Spears answered.
He quoted numbers, including the Pikes Peak Library District’s 14 library branches, online resources and mobile library services; serving a population of more than 642,000 residents in El Paso County with an employee base of nearly 500 full and part-time staff and almost 1,700 volunteers. The library’s annual budget of $32 million figures at $49 per capita, Spears said. He cited research concluding libraries return $3 worth of services to the community for every $1 spent. And he said the current tax rate hasn’t been increased since 1986, which will make for unsustainable services in the future related to recent and projected population growth.
Garcia-Febo mentioned facilities can now be used more as a public forums — as impartial places to gather to “agree or to disagree.”
They both cited more than once the “live” nature of libraries, with their trained staff on hand with expertise to help assist and direct people to customized resources. For example, Terry Zarsky, business services librarian at PPLD has paid for demographic information for businesses to use to expand or increase profits, and knows how to apply and personalize it, said Spears.
The event concluded with a meet-and-greet with Garcia-Febo, during which several attendees waited their turn to speak with her. Those present had a chance to peruse a table with library copies of a dozen of her favorite books relating to the All Pikes Reads program themes of diversity, multiculturalism, immigration, and resiliency.