Getting a read on the future

CITY HALL — In the roughly 2 1/2 years Cindy Cleary has headed the city's library system, she has tried to do more with less.

Faced with budget cuts, Cleary and her staff have been forced to grapple with reduced hours, less staffing and narrowly avoided a closure of the Chevy Chase branch. At the same time, she has pushed forward with key renovations at the system's flagship Central Library and the Brand Library & Art Center.

Now, Cleary and other library administrators want to hear from the community how the library system can better meet community needs.

"We want to look outward a little more," she said. "How do we get people in our doors? What kind of services can we provide that people need and want?"

For the first time in nearly a decade, library officials and an outside consultant this week will meet with community members and city officials as part of the library system's first strategic planning process in nearly a decade.

The outside consulting contract is being funded through outside donations, Cleary said.

The planning process is also aimed at identifying ways that officials can better market library services as they continue to evolve with new technology.

"One of the frustrations that we all face in the library world is people who don't use us don't realize how much we've changed," Cleary said. "That's another goal — to communicate that change to people."

For example, Glendale libraries already offer wireless Internet access, downloadable e-books, audio books and music and digital newspaper and language-learning databases.

Residents can also search the library's collection, request books and view account information remotely online.

Open since 2008, the library's newest branch in a south Glendale storefront, officially called "Library Connection @ Adams Square," is focused on technology.

Patrons can check out one of 12 laptops for use on-site, while the library also features a large flat-screen television and a self-checkout book scanner.

So far the strategy has been working, Cleary said, with the 2,200-square-foot branch boasting circulation numbers higher than branches twice its size.

Longtime library patron and supporter John Steele, who serves as president of Friends of the Glendale Public Library, said he is looking forward to taking part in the planning process.

"I think the input of residents is important to chart the future direction of library services," he said. "I am all for residents making their voices known. They should have a voice in that decision."

With funding for libraries continuing to be threatened, Steele said that he would like to see a ballot measure for a possible parcel tax to support library services.

"I think the residents of Glendale would be favorably disposed to it," he said. "Residents should be able to decide."

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