Sunday, July 10, 2011

And Then There Is San Jose's Seven Trees Library

...completed last fall in a city that cannot afford to hire the librarians that would make it possible to open the library's doors.  In fact, according to this New York Times article, Seven Trees is one of four new San Jose libraries (totaling some 68,000 square feet of floor space) that remains closed due to the city's budget restraints.
...the product of a bond measure that passed in 2000 at the height of the Internet bubble. None of the libraries currently have a budget to hire employees.

Still, Seven Trees’ shiny two-story building, which includes a first-floor community center that opened in October, attracts a steady stream of would-be library patrons.
This is where the good news enters this library story.  The "Friends of the Seven Trees Library" have taken on the unusual role of administering an "unofficial" loan program with the donated books collected by the group.  Rather than selling the books, the Friends are, in effect, running their own little library system.
Now Ms. Hashii, a retired library clerk, keeps a mental list of her readers’ needs as she sorts donations. A man with white hair and thick glasses says he is on the lookout for large-print books. Mothers come to read with their children on the one folding chair in the little space, so Ms. Hashii looks for more picture books. A Spanish-speaking woman is teaching herself to read and has asked for easy Spanish books.

“It’s something the community really seems to be taking to,” Ms. Hashii said.
There is still hope in a world in which the average citizen manages to circumvent the failures of government officials, local and national. But what a waste to let these buildings sit empty and unused like this. Why didn't some of those billions of dollars in stimulus money go to create jobs like these instead of being wasted the way it all apparently was by being thrown into some black hole that failed miserably to create a meaningful number of new jobs of any type?


  1. I actually live in San Jose and am so disgusted about this. Seven Trees is in a neighborhood that can use all the help it gets. The fact that they would build an expensive library and then not be able to keep it open is a really sad commentary of the current state of affairs in California. Considering that San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley with all of the high tech companies making money hand over fist, it is even more egregious. I support my own library every chance I get by donating money. I'm glad to hear there are some good folks doing what they can for Seven Trees.

  2. This is really sad, although I'm glad that the community is doing what they can to make the best of it. I hope someone has told them about the resources they can use to keep track of their collection as it gets larger (I'm thinking LibraryThing, which a lot of small volunteer-run libraries use), or pointed them to library listservs were librarians would be happy to answer any questions they might have about maintaining and improving this until their government officials quit failing them.

    The sad thing is, I can see officials looking at this and continuing to claim that funding for staff for the library is unnecessary, because obviously the community is doing well enough on their own. People tend to think, "well, it works" not "it could be working better." Libraries have this issue when their budgets are slashed and they manage to keep their services from being visibly affected (mostly by overworking their staff or cutting in places the public can't see).

  3. Thanks for the insight into the Seven Trees neighborhood, Kathleen. With all the waste in most governmental budgets, it is a real tragedy to see something like a library affected this way.

  4. I suppose you're right, Library Girl. This kind of thing might backfire in a sense on the Friends of the Library. By providing the services they are providing they make it just that much easier for those in charge to delay opening the actual library to the public.

    I have been in the same situation at work...taking up the slack for people fired or laid-off, only to find that their work eventually becomes part of the regular jobs of those of us still there. That kind of thinking stinks.

  5. The Friends of Seven Trees Library are not acting as a library. They are selling books to customers as well as letting individuals borrow a book and bring it back. The friends are making money off the sale of books and encourage the community and library administration to open the library. The friends are selling books and support community center projects when possible as well as library programs.

  6. Having grown up in the area, I, personally, was upset to hear about the stall; however, you may be pleased to know that this Saturday, January 26th, at 11am, is the official Grand Opening! And it most certainly is about time!

  7. Congratulations to all involved, Pops Fabrication. That's good news, indeed.