Adapt or perish — that maxim may have once sounded threatening to the future of libraries, but thanks to the clever retooling efforts of the Los Angeles County Library system and burgeoning children’s programming, La Cañada’s library is thriving.
Manager Mark Totten says membership has been on the rise as more area residents discover the many services available to county library patrons, from online development courses and downloadable audiobooks to free movies and music streaming.
“The world is changing — it’s going from print to electronic,” said Totten, who’s helmed the local branch for nearly nine years. “That’s what the library is doing.”
In a Nov. 20 presentation to the La Cañada City Council, Totten reported more than 350 membership applications were received in the first three weeks of November. With about 200,000 items checked out each year, the small local branch ranks 13th out of the county’s 88 locations for use.
Membership provides users access to a digital library with business and higher education classes through Lynda.com, up to 15 downloadable ebooks through Overdrive, 10 streaming movies per month through Kanopy and five songs a week through Freegal that users can keep.
“We’re providing traditional services in a 21st-century format,” Totten said.
Meanwhile, participation in events for kids is flourishing under the leadership of children’s librarian Sarah LoVerme. Monday’s baby-toddler storytime was moved from the meeting room when attendance eclipsed the 118-person capacity, and the program now comes in two back-to-back sessions.
Last spring the library offered membership to all La Cañada Unified School District third-graders beginning to incorporate reading into daily lessons. A Smarty Pants school readiness storytime helps children 3 to 5 work on academic and social skills needed for kindergarten.
And a “Read Away” program lets kids who rack up fines for late or lost books read off their debts at the library at the rate of $5 per hour. LoVerme said it teaches responsibility without scaring children away.
“It’s been incredibly popular,” she said. “They don’t have to pay money but are still held accountable, and they can work on getting their account back in shape.”
Local library members approve of recent changes that make the branch a valuable resource for all patrons. La Cañada resident Irene Christensen says she likes the Teen Tech program, which lets youth coach seniors on how to use gadgets.
“It’s great what the library is doing to adapt,” she said. “This is more than a library, this is a community center.”
Montrose’s Barbara Stanley agrees.
“They didn’t even used to have computers available, so having all that is very nice,” she said. “Now they send emails when your books are ready.”