Get cracking on the opportunities for growth, pleasure at libraries

Jessica Brodkin Webb

Those of us who devour paperbacks like they’re weekend brunch know the satisfying crack of opening a new book. From the time we begin reading texts with a spine wide enough to crack, sometime in elementary school, a scolding teacher or school librarian tells us the delicious crack is wrong, terrible for the book. We do it anyway — crack— releasing the promise of a new adventure into the dark hours before bed, losing ourselves to another world during the ridiculous wait at the doctor’s office, sinking into the welcoming sand at the beach on a much-needed vacation and savoring our time on the plane flight home. Sure, we’re curious about the story but there is optimism in opening a new book itself. The magic lies not in knowing bullet points of the plot from a back cover synopsis but in knowing we have an entirely new book to read, details yet to be discovered.

If cracking open a fresh book is a New Year’s celebration, a sudden burst of glittering energy at midnight, then a library is perpetually 11:59 p.m. with anticipatory joy at all the possibilities a year can contain.

According to Library Journal, most libraries are facing three trends that will shape their functionality in years to come. However, the leap from changing a library to changing a life is a rather short hop.

The first trend, a shift toward digital services, implies a need for mobility and agility, being able to reinvent the familiar so it is more easily utilized. Where a library might digitize specific collections, the new year might serve as an impetus for any one person to begin saving their documents digitally, back up their entire photo collection to that invisible cloud or generally shift toward a less cluttered life. There is a choice to be made in there, but the decision is somewhat forced by the rest of the world demanding we keep up with changing times. The same patron who stops to admire a 1923 photo also expects fast book delivery in 2023 and if they cannot quickly reserve a book through their library’s website, they will order it online.

The second trend suggests library staff has had to become more efficient with their budget since the start of the pandemic. With some of the fastest growing home prices in the nation, gas prices that broke county records in 2022 and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more money spent in California on both insurance and entertainment than the national average, there is little doubt residents are stretching their budget with no guarantee pre-pandemic pricing will ever return. If library staff are pinching pennies then people are looking for pennies to pinch with many coming up shorter and shorter each month. Good thing a library card is free.
The third trend indicates libraries are increasingly challenged to illustrate their value.

This is, perhaps, the most human challenge of all: to look back at what you have done, look ahead to what you might be able to accomplish and set out making a must-do list to increase one’s value. A person’s list might include ‘lose weight, quit smoking, go back school’ but decoding the list leads to ‘be more agile, make wiser financial choices, increase value.’

It can be hard to stick to it past Jan. 16 when it would be far easier to gently close the door and tell the world you are unavailable.

However, there are shelves full of novels, new and old, waiting for someone to pull them from curated shelves at the local library, along with freshly printed flyers featuring computer training, tutoring, kids’ activities, and teen book clubs. It is a new year.

Crack the book.

• Kids in grades 1-3 can join the Beginning Readers Circle from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the El Cajon library.

• Parents and caregivers can join in songs, fingerplays, and stories for babies under 18 months. Geared toward pre-walkers, this group meets Fridays, 10:30 to 11 a.m. at the El Cajon library.

•Teens ages 14-17 are invited to the El Cajon library from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 8 for a service learning orientation. Students who need hours for school requirements, college applications, or work experience, or who want to make a difference in their community are encouraged to register.

•The El Cajon library also offers recurring and regular meetups where LGBTQ+ teens, ages 12-17 can socialize in a safe space every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

• Adults can begin 2023 by learning how to use a computer from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday at the El Cajon library.

• The El Cajon library welcomes adults with disabilities and their caregivers to make crafts, play games, explore the library, and enjoy music, story times, guest speakers, and more on the second and fourth Monday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

• An expert librarian is available every first and third Tuesday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the El Cajon library to assist with navigating the library’s free online resources including the Libby and SDCL mobile apps. No appointment is necessary, see a librarian for more information.

• The El Cajon library also offers weekly English as a Second Language classes. See a staff member for more information.

• The Lemon Grove library will be showing an after-school movie every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m.

• The Slime Club will be meeting at the Lemon Grove library from 3 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 12. All supplies are provided.

• Game Day is happening from 3 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 19 at the Lemon Grove library— stop by to play video games, card games and board games.

• Young children are also welcome every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. for songs, stories and fun at the Lemon Grove library.

• Heaven’s Windows will be providing snacks and light meals every day from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the Lemon Grove library, free for anyone 18 years or younger while supplies last.

• Need tech help? The Santee library has one-on-one help available from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 11. Bring your device for one-on-one help with eBooks, Macs, PCs, tablets, and more— no appointment necessary.

• The Santee library offers toddler story time from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Thursday with stories, songs, playtime and fun for the littlest readers.

• They also offer preschool story time from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Friday with a focus on building early reading skills, learning to follow directions, and enjoying social time.

•Join the Lego Construction Club at the La Mesa library on Jan. 9, Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. Builders can construct whatever they want, or take on a weekly building challenge. All ages welcome but younger children must be accompanied by an adult.

• Need help with the internet, email, Microsoft or library ebooks? Drop-in tech help is available every Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. at the La Mesa library.

• A math coach is regularly available from 4 to 6 p.m. at the La Mesa library. Kindergarteners through 12th graders can get one-on-one help from a skilled volunteer tutor. Call or stop by to make an appointment.

• Teens in 6th-12th grade can pick up a copy of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sanchez at the La Mesa library then turn up for the Teen Book Club on Jan. 17.

• Adults are invited to discuss this month’s book club title, “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict from 1 to 2 p.m. on Jan. 19.